In Chicago, there won’t be any fireworks at Navy Pier this year. The Lake Michigan beaches are closed, there are no ballgames, and “social distancing ambassadors” will be out to enforce the mayor’s edicts at any gathering anywhere.
What won’t be affected by the pandemic rules will be street violence. Chicago residents are bracing for the most violent weekend yet and city officials — including the police — are clueless about what to do to improve the situation.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot says there will be 1,200 more cops on the streets this weekend. That’s fine, except there were 1,400 extra police on the streets last year.
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Boosting the number of officers on the street is a tactic that was also a staple of warm-weather holiday crime-fighting efforts under former Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Asked about the lower number of cops on the street this year, Lightfoot said, “I think we’ve got the right number of people coupled with all the resources of our community partners, our other city agencies that are going to be out there and visible.”
Also on the street as a “community partner” will be 150 unarmed workers for the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago. Their job description may be a little hazy but it’s hoped that they won’t get in the way of the numerous drive-by shootings that will pepper the neighborhoods with gunfire.
They may or may not help, but what can they do? Solve the gang problem by talking to gang members and leaders? Almost all the violence this weekend will be gang-related and I don’t think talking will do any good.
Superintendent David Brown said earlier in the week that the police will clear “drug corners” of loiterers. Sounds like a good idea — except activists don’t think so.
Activists and civil libertarians have criticized the city over Brown’s plan to clear people off of “drug corners” by making arrests in an effort to tamp down gun violence over the Fourth of July weekend.
Though critics have raised questions about the legality of Brown’s proposal and cautioned that sweeping arrests will further harm the relationship between police and Black residents, the mayor earlier in the week said such condemnation is misplaced as officers try to save young lives.
The last thing Lightfoot needs is a riot after cops rough up some kids standing on a corner not doing anything.
Brown appeared to back off the plan to “sweep” the corners.
For his part, Brown attempted to make clear that the goal is to bring down high-level drug dealers.
“We are aggressively going after drug and gang criminal networks,” he said, and added that they’re focused on midlevel and upper-level “masterminds behind the drug trade in Chicago because that’s what’s fueling city violence.”
The big shots might be “fueling” the violence but its the corner kids who are doing the actual shootings. Increased patrols will do more good than “sweeping” the corners anyway.
What would also help is if the cops didn’t feel like they have to walk on eggshells around black kids and could aggressively enforce the law. That’s not likely to happen. Mayor Lightfoot and most of the city council have shown that they won’t back up the police department in any questionable situation. Cops know this and many will simply refuse to act.
This is the Ferguson Effect 2.0 and, if anything, is more damaging to public safety than the original instances of it in Baltimore and elsewhere. It means that no matter how many extra officers are on the street, and no matter how many “non-violence experts” the city deploys, a bloodbath is more than likely this holiday weekend.