Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, mother of Hadiya Pendleton, weeps in the arms of her family and friends following a press conference at Vivian Gordon Harsh Park in Chicago Wednesday January 30, 2013. An $11,000 reward is now being offered for information leading to the arrest of Hadiya Pendleton's killer. | Jessica A. Koscielniak ~ Sun-Times
Updated: March 4, 2013 6:39AM
We are Newtown.
We are a city besieged by murder. We are a city sick to death of killing.
We are a city that hardly knows itself anymore, the pretty lake over here but the lovely girl dying in the rain over there.
Her name was Hadiya Pendleton, and she was 15 and wonderful. She is, for Chicago, every child who was slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Hadiya’s death is our call to arms.
This must end and we must end it.
Chicago puts more cops on the street. It’s not enough. We close one school and open another. It’s not enough. We put a bit of money in this neighborhood or that. It’s not enough.
We pray at funerals where mothers cry and fathers crumble, and Lord knows it’s not enough.
From City Hall to the private clubs of multi-millionaires to every storefront church, we must hear Hadiya’s cry as if she were our own daughter, and we had better do more.
On Thursday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he will put 200 more police officers on the streets, bolstering the size of roving teams of cops working the most dangerous neighborhoods. It’s an old idea that’s worked before. In 2004, the first year “saturation” policing was tried, crime dropped sharply.
But it won’t be enough. Chicago had 506 homicides last year and 42 in January of this year — the deadliest January in a decade. Chicago should put 1,000 more cops on the street, which is precisely what Emanuel vowed he would do when he was running for mayor.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office must step up. Chicago’s street gangs are so wild and deadly that nothing short of sweeping prosecutions under federal racketeering laws will begin to curb their carnage.
But it won’t be enough.
Crime grows like a weed from the ground up; cops and prosecutors can only lop off the ugly blooms. If we as a city are truly fed up with the killing, no longer able to look away, we must pour our energies like never before into all those ways in which an enlightened society grows a beautiful flower — better schools, more after-school programs, greater economic investment in the neighborhoods and more jobs that pay a wage a person can live on.
Where is Chicago’s business community in all this? They worry about the burden of public employee pensions. They complain about corporate taxes. They chat over lunch about the troubles of Boeing.
But what are they doing to bring mom-and-pop stores and good jobs to Roseland?
And where are Chicago’s religious and community leaders? For every Rev. Michael Pfleger down at St. Sabina’s church, running basketball leagues and GED programs, there are a thousand men of the cloth who behave as if their ministry ends at the church door.
To our city’s shame, it would take so little to do so much more. We have set the bar so low.
Unemployment in Chicago’s most depressed neighborhoods, including Roseland, tops 20 percent. More than half the students in some public high schools fail to graduate. Metal detectors in schools are common, but social workers are scarce.
For so long we have looked the other way. We have blamed bad parents, but done too little to build stronger families. We have blamed gangs, but given our young men meager alternatives. We have put a distance, physically and emotionally, between them and us.
Chicago is Newtown, where mass murder rolls along one day to the next. Sometimes the victim is an innocent, sometimes not.
On Tuesday, the victim was Hadiya. On Friday morning, it was a young woman in a van on Lake Shore Drive.
Chicago is Newtown, where every day another mother doubles over in pain.