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Mayor defends crime strategy, says it should have been done sooner

Mayor Rahm Emanuel answers reporter's questions  Thursday news conference. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel answers reporter's questions at a Thursday, news conference. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 14, 2012 8:16AM

Under fire for a 60 percent surge in Chicago homicides, Mayor Rahm Emanuel pointed fingers Thursday without naming names.

The mayor ticked off the steps he has taken, so far without success, to stop the bloodbath. They include: gang audits, a stricter curfew policy, increased spending for after-school programs, shifting 600 police officers from desk jobs to street duty and cracking down on liquor and convenience stores.

Then, he asked a fundamental question.

“You can say, are you doing it right? [But] the question is, why were those policies not done before? Why was it the police department was not organized to have a gang audit to do pro-active efforts to intervene on reprisal shootings that are driving the numbers? We’re doing that,” the mayor said.

“We have a particular problem in the city as it relates to gangs and we were not organized across a waterfront of areas: policing, dealing with liquor stores in communities or our prosecutorial laws in dealing with that gang problem and getting that organized.”

Emanuel never mentioned the name of his predecessor and political mentor, former Mayor Richard M. Daley. Nor did he single out former Police Supt. Jody Weis, who jumped ship to avoid being pushed out by Emanuel.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this week that there have been 120 homicides through April 1, a 60 percent surge from the 75 murders during the same period a year ago. Shootings during the same period are up 37 percent.

“I am not happy at all with the statistics — and beyond the statistics [with] the human tragedies that occur and the terror in the city,” the mayor said.

“The rise in homicides — close to 70 to 80 percent of ‘em — are all gang-on-gang or gang reprisals. ... Our police department, until this time, never really had a true gang audit of who was in what gang. Who’s on parole? Who’s on probation? What were they in for to finally deal with the reprisals so you have a proactive gang strategy [instead of] a reactive one.”

Last month, Emanuel returned from a spring break ski trip with his kids to say he was outraged by the bloodbath of violence while he was away that claimed the life of a six-year-old playing on the porch in front of her parents and nearly killed a Chicago Police officer.

The mayor renewed his demand for a citywide gang strategy similar to the one police recently used successfully to go after the Maniac Latin Disciples.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy responded with the plan for gang audits in every district.

Emanuel and McCarthy are both on record as denying that Chicago’s unseasonably warm weather has had anything to do with the troubling surge in homicides and shootings. But the facts seem to contradict their argument.

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