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Emanuel outlines ‘wraparound’ strategy to fight crime

Updated: June 17, 2012 8:12AM

Under fire for a 52 percent surge in Chicago homicides that’s costing him black support, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday unveiled a “wraparound” strategy designed to saturate high-crime neighborhoods with city and social services after police clear out the drug markets.

Emanuel has been promising to deliver the “social network” to support police efforts since January, when Police Supt. Garry McCarthy announced plans to stop the bleeding by targeting gangs and drug markets in the city’s two most violent districts.

The idea was to saturate the Englewood and Harrison Districts with resources, put the gangs and drug markets out of business, round up the fugitives and make the cleanup permanent with help from a “network of community, faith-based and government resources.”

On Tuesday, the mayor held a news conference at a West Pullman church to announce that the long-awaited social network was not only up and running, but delivering on his promise to permanently reclaim streets that once belonged to street gangs.

Four times in recent months — most recently after Friday’s dismantling of a drug market along South Michigan Avenue between 111th and 118th streets — neighborhoods once terrorized by gangs have been saturated with city and social services within 48 hours of undercover police investigations that put drug dealers out of business.

Since Friday’s police takedown alone, the city has provided different services to “build up the community”— from clearing vacant lots and cutting weeds to cleaning catch basins and removing graffiti, repairing street lights, sewer mains and potholes. After police operations in five districts — Grand Crossing, South Chicago, Calumet, Ogden and Harrison — more than 200 area residents and community leaders have been “engaged,” triggering 600 service requests, the mayor said.

“It is a coordinated strategy. Rather than spreading the peanut butter too thin across the city, concentrating it when you clear an area of a gang so it’s not just cleared temporarily and … two days later, the gangs are back. It’s making sure that we hold that area,” Emanuel said.

“If they don’t see any of that follow-up, all the police have done is cleared a corner … The goal is, once they see that corner removed of any gangbangers to see an immediate physical difference to the quality in that neighborhood and to bring a coordination [of city services] all to bear down on that neighborhood and to have a community re-emerge where a gang was once present.”

Bishop Ed Peecher of Chicago Embassy Church, 5848 S. Princeton, said area residents welcomed the intense focus in Englewood.

“One of the ladies came to the meeting literally with tears in her eyes. She said for the first time in as many years as she could remember, people were sitting on the front porch feeling comfortable. Kids were playing in the streets. Those are the anecdotal things that tell you something is happening,” he said.

Conspicuously absent from the mayor’s bottomless network of city and social services are the jobs needed to keep young people occupied and off the streets this summer so they don’t fall prey to the lure of drug-dealing street gangs.

“Jobs are probably 110 percent of what’s [standing in the way of] this being a great program. That’s what’s really needed: employment for these young kids. They need something to do. If we gave them an opportunity to make a living, they would be less active in the street,” said Mario Coleman, director of the Ben Wilson Foundation.

“We’re working toward it. We’re trying to get something going. We have to talk with the mayor. We have to start at Step One to get to Step Ten.”

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