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Mitchell: City cops fail first heat test

Updated: June 3, 2013 3:43PM



The shooting at 71st and Jeffery on Tuesday evening hit too close to home.

I live within walking distance of the corner where four young men were shot, one fatally.

In various parts of the city, three men were killed and at least 15 others were wounded during a nine-hour spree that began in the afternoon. It was the warmest day this city has seen in months.

While most people were out enjoying the weather, apparently a number of shooters were out settling scores that have been simmering all winter.

But Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy has consistently downplayed the role weather plays in Chicago’s bloodletting.

When asked on Fox-32’s “Good Day Chicago” if the Chicago Police Department considered the long-awaited warm-up when “tweaking” its crime-fighting strategy, McCarthy again balked.

“We don’t plan for the weather, then we would need more meteorologists than strategies,” he said.

So at the same time police were releasing figures showing that the city had a 42 percent decrease in murders during the first four months of 2013, emergency responders were transporting the wounded to area hospitals.

I don’t want to take anything away from the hard-working police officers who are under fire on Chicago’s streets, but everyone living in neighborhoods plagued by gun violence knows summer can be a curse.

In fact, on the first 80-degree day, Chicagoans everywhere are just a tad hyped up. On that first really warm day, motorists are quick to blow their horns and hang out their windows yelling.

I have learned to stay off the streets until folks calm down.

McCarthy isn’t ready to recognize the summer effect when it comes to fighting crime. Indeed, he credits his “comprehensive policing strategy” that includes moving sworn officers from administrative jobs to beat patrols, for a dramatic reduction in homicides.

That’s fine.

But where were those “beat patrols” Tuesday?

According to people who had to flee the gunfire at 71st and Jeffery, while police were responding to the shooting in one place, someone opened fire across the street, according to a news report.

The homicide numbers may be decreasing, but whatever police strategy was in play on Tuesday was disappointing.

After all, there was one clear sign that the warm weather would likely bring out shooters — too many people have gotten away with murder in this community.

On Nov. 10, 2012, Anthony Bagsby, 20, was killed in the 2600 block of East 79th. Seven weeks later, Steven Cannon was beaten in the head in the 7200 block of South Bennett. He died two months later.

No one was charged in the deaths.

Although 71st and Jeffery is a bustling intersection, shooters apparently aren’t too worried about being caught. Because on Jan. 10, two other males were shot at this same location.

Tyrone Soleberry, 39, died at the scene and another man suffered a gunshot wound to the leg. Additionally, on March 8, Raymond Tucker, 24, was killed at 3:45 p.m. while walking on the 1900 block of East 79th. And on April 8, Robert Gholson, 28, was shot dead in the 1300 block of East 74th.

Homicide Watch Chicago shows no suspects were in custody in connection with any of those homicides, as well.

Now, South Shore accounts for the first shooting death in May. Shortly after midnight, Darrin Rodgers, 27, was shot in the 6800 block of South Cornell, the same block where he lived. And once again there are no suspects in custody.

It is easy to consider the numbers and put the actual mayhem out of your mind when you don’t live anywhere near it.

But on Wednesday morning, I had to go up to 71st and Jeffery to pick up something from Dominick’s.

I expected to see the area on lockdown. It wasn’t. The same people who regularly hang out in the parking lot barking “loosies” — hawking single cigarettes — were on their jobs.

On the Northwest corner, the same mix of commuters and loiterers gathered at the bus stop.

Just about everyone — people on the street, people holding up the corners, people riding in cars — gawked at the shooting scene they recognized from TV.

The city has waited a long time for summer.

But Chicago wasn’t ready when warm weather finally showed up.



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