Chicago violence hurting city's image?

January 31, 2013 4:30:16 PM PST
The murder of Hadiya Pendleton has brought many calls to end the violence in Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Thursday that 200 police officers will be reassigned to the streets in high-crime areas.

There is growing concern in some quarters that the violence in Chicago is hurting the city's reputation and bottom line.

Network television news shows, front page stories in the New York Times and other newspapers -- Chicago is getting a reputation as the most violent big city in America.

When asked how the city's image has been affected by the violence, the mayor cited statistics suggesting the world is not afraid of Chicago.

"Our tourism is up 8 percent," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

But public relations expert Thom Serafin disagrees. He says the murders and shootings are hurting tourism.

"When people make those decisions to take their families somewhere for the spring and the summer, they're going to think twice and double-clutch on whether or not they feel comfortable coming to the City of Chicago," said Serafin.

As a candidate, Emanuel promised safer streets. But shootings and murders have skyrocketed during his 21 months despite the redeployments of over 1,000 cops to the most violent neighborhoods.

"He can put 20,000 police on the street," said community activist Mark Carter.

Carter says young people need jobs and after-school programs, especially in black neighborhoods that gave 59 percent of their vote to Emanuel.

"It was the African-American community that put him into office, but he's not putting these resources into our community," Carter said.

To improve Chicago's image worldwide, private businesses raised tens of millions of dollars to hold the NATO conference and even more in the failed attempt to host the 2016 Olympics.

"I think it would be smart on the businesses behalf if they would invest in our public safety issues," said 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett.

"Can they step up as a number of them have offered to do?" said Mayor Emanuel. "Absolutely."

But, so far, there has been no comparable private sector effort to address the image-shattering violence.

"Everybody's got to get into this boat and pull one of those oars. Otherwise, we're not going to get out of this jam," Serafin said.

Seraphin also pointed out that Chicago has fought being a labeled a violent city for decades. The image problem, he says, dates back to the murderous 1920s featuring Al Capone and other Chicago gangsters.