During the early 1980s, parts of Chicago had a violence problem. Gang and drug activity was on the rise with the resultant shootings, murder, and mayhem.
Aldermen, community organizations, clergy, businesses, and residents complained loudly. A decision was made to tamp down on the violence by making the streets intolerable for the gangs and drug dealers.
District teams were established and unleashed. After a while the violence dropped, graffiti started disappearing, and people felt safer walking the streets, especially at night. Business picked up on the commercial strips in the areas.
Then, it all fell apart. The very aldermen, residents, and community organizations who complained about the violence and murders turned and started to vocally complain about the police tactics that reduced violence.
The teams were disbanded to appease politicians, clergy, and community groups. Business people silently fumed.
During the late 1980s in Pilsen, a similar strategy was unofficially employed when gang and drug activity was becoming open and notorious. The aldermen complained. The park supervisors complained. The businesses and residents complained. The district police responded.
Just when a corner was being turned, many of the complainers turned on the police. Once again, the very people who wanted the violence to stop complained about the tactics.
There was an incident during the 1990's. A park supervisor at a playground in Little Village complained about gang activity around his field house. He was afraid for himself and the children, most who attended an elementary school next door. Police responded to his complaint and rousted the gangs.
The park supervisor did not like the way the police handled or manhandled the gang members. He complained to the media. Evidently he thought the police would just have an avuncular discussion with the criminals making them see the errors of their ways.
There were some bright points. We had a State's Attorney who was willing to prosecute gang members and dope dealers. His name was Richard M. Daley. No matter what we think about his tenure as mayor, his prosecutors had a good working relationship with the police. Gang members and drug dealers were prosecuted. Felony charges were easy to obtain.
Now we have an ineffectual State's Attorney, who makes police officers jump through hoops to get felony charges approved. From most reports, no one knows what Anita Alvarez is doing. Most know what she is not doing, prosecuting felons. She is not publicly threatening to prosecute anyone for anything.
Plea bargaining, the equivalent of selling used cars, is used to reduce charges and supposedly make the system more efficient. Plea bargaining has been around for decades. It is being abused by quisling prosecutors and sleazy lawyers to let felons back on the streets.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is right. We cannot police our way out of the spate of violence. He is right that parenting and community action is part of the solution.
We still need prosecutors to put the hammer down and approve felony charges. Better, eliminate Felony Review for all but the most heinous crimes. Let the police charge criminals with felonies without permission from politically sensitive prosecutors.
The plea bargaining system must end for all violent felonies. It is a travesty of the justice system.
We need the aldermen, clergy, and community organizations to stop aiding, abetting, and enabling street gangs, drug dealers, and other local criminal groups. Their partnership in crime must cease.
Police need the backing of the politicians if they are going to curb violence. Tactics which worked in the past cannot be used because the politicians will not support them.
Asking for more cops is somewhat unrealistic at this point. The money is not there. We are already over taxed, paying for heaven knows what. The police force is dangerously low thanks to wasting money on non-essential services.
Former mayor, Richard M. Daley is to blame for the shrinkage of the Chicago Police Department to dangerously low levels. He was a good prosecutor and poor city steward. The aldermen were no better. They gutted essential services, wasting money on bread and circuses.
Asking parents to be responsible for their children is a waste of time. Police have been asking that for decades to no avail.
The eight hundred pound gorilla everyone ignores is multi-generational poverty and career elected officials who do nothing about it. There are career politicians representing these areas who did and do nothing to bring economic development to their impoverished wards and districts.
They exist in the City Council and state and federal legislatures. Some are considered icons. Their pre-written obits are lying testimony to their noble lives of so-called service.
Vast swaths of vacant commercial property are rife for development in many wards. Development that will bring jobs. Crime is the only employment in many of these areas. Yet, aldermen, state and federal legislators do nothing, which has been par for the course for almost fifty years.
It is time to break the stranglehold organized labor has on construction jobs. They must be forced to hire local people in neighborhoods where construction is taking place, especially where CHA properties are being redeveloped. They must be held to the same standards of minority hiring as companies. Their rules and political clout keeps large numbers of African Americans who are willing to work locked out.
Up until the early 1980s there were several organizations offering cultural, technical, and athletic activities for youth. Chicago Boys and Girls Clubs, Scouting, Y.M.C.A.s, and the famous C.Y.O- Catholic Youth Organization.
C.Y.O. offered all kinds of programs for young people. At one point they had the largest basketball league and one of the best boxing programs in the country.
There were also neighborhood initiatives by local social workers, who realized that athletics and hobbies kept youth out of trouble and gave them pride and self esteem.
All these various programs were backed by past mayors and aldermen. Somewhere along the line, for unexplained reasons, political support disappeared. The programs were gone.
Last, but not least, there needs to be a cultural change in these neighborhoods. Gangs and drug dealers need to be looked upon with the same disdain as pedophiles. The clergy, politicians, community organizations, and news media must start referring to them in unflattering terms. Sometimes yellow journalism is justified.
There was a time when gangs were referred to as vermin, pestilence, plague, and contagion. Somewhere along the line they became sympathetic figures who must not be debased and demeaned. It became wrong to refer to criminals in unflattering terms, unless they were octogenarian Outfit members with walkers and sucking oxygen being tried for crimes decades old.
There are no quick solutions to the ongoing violence in Chicago. Glib tongued political platitudes and carefully structured talking points will not solve the problem. There are solutions that worked in the past. Successful people replicate success.
Chicago is replicating failure.
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