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City won’t write a ‘blank check’ to partner CeaseFire: mayor

Updated: July 6, 2012 10:46AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Friday he’s proceeding with caution in forging a city partnership with CeaseFire Illinois — and not writing a “blank check” — to make certain ex-offenders hired by the group are “preventing crime, not committing it.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that at least six people have been charged with committing drug-related crimes while on CeaseFire’s payroll over the past five years.

That makes some law enforcement officials skeptical of the anti-violence group that has never before worked directly with the city.

Desperate to reverse a 50 percent increase in Chicago homicides fueled by gang violence, Emanuel said he still plans to use the anti-violence group. But he’s proceeding with caution.

“That’s one of the reasons that, rather than just write a blank check, [Police Supt.] Garry McCarthy and [First Deputy] Al Wysinger are working with the CeaseFire leadership to come with a Chicago-centric CeaseFire agreement that makes sure we’re focused on fighting crime — not committing it,” Emanuel said.

The mayor said he remains convinced that CeaseFire and the interveners it uses to mediate gang conflicts can be “a partner in fighting gang violence.” But they’re not the cornerstone of the city’s anti-gang strategy. They’re one piece.

Equally important are the other weapons in the city’s arsenal: a “police operation focused on interdicting in gang-on-gang violence”; allowing beat officers to access information on gang factions, turf and associations through data terminals in their squad cars and shutting down liquor stores that serve as magnets for crime.

Earlier this week, McCarthy defended his efforts to stop retaliatory shootings by Chicago’s 59 gangs and 625 gang factions and disclosed plans to enlist CeaseFire Illinois for the first time to help.

The group, affiliated with the University of Illinois at Chicago, sends “interrupters” who are often felons into the streets to mediate gang conflicts.

“We are going to take CeaseFire to another level and kind of tie it in to our violence-reduction strategy,” the superintendent said then.

Emanuel and McCarthy showcased their anti-gang strategies after a bloody Memorial Day weekend in Chicago that saw 10 people shot to death. That brought the 2012 homicide tally to 200 as of Sunday, a nearly 50 percent increase over the same period a year ago.

City Hall still has not released any details about the proposed arrangement with CeaseFire.

But Tio Hardiman, director of CeaseFire Illinois, said the discussion involves the city paying $1.5 million to fund as many as 75 gang interveners to work in the Grand-Crossing, Pullman and Ogden police districts. In the past, CeaseFire has received state, county and federal money, but no city funding.

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