Emanuel agrees with Ald. Austin’s falling crime stats ‘crap’ comment
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter January 9, 2014 2:36PM
Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday backed Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), who said plummeting crime statistics mean "crap" if people don't feel safe. | Fran Spielman~Sun-Times
Updated: February 11, 2014 6:27AM
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday he agrees with Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) that an avalanche of police statistics showing a reduction in homicides and shootings mean “crap” if people don’t feel safe.
One day after a verbal broadside from one of the City Council’s most influential African-American aldermen, Emanuel refused to return fire.
In fact, the mayor agreed with Austin, who unloaded on Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy when asked how she felt about Chicago’s first homicide of 2014 occurring in the Far South Side’s Roseland community she represents.
“I talked to Carrie. . . . Everything she said — in one way or another in different words — I’ve said and I agree with,” said Emanuel, whose popularity has dropped among black voters who helped put him in office because of persistent crime and school closings.
“These are statistics. The measure is, can you have a community garden and do you feel safe enough.”
The mayor noted that he invited Austin to bring two girls — ages 12 and 13 — and their mothers to his office after both girls recovered from being shot last summer while walking home from a park before dark.
Nikia Turner and Tishona Polk were not the intended targets. A motorist speeding and swerving down the street while blaring loud music allegedly fired on a passing car and hit the girls instead.
“Those statistics are cold comfort. I agree with that. They’re a measure. But, they’re cold comfort when you’re talking to a parent. As you know, I call those parents,” Emanuel said.
“I agree with that. The superintendent agrees with that. Yes, we’re making progress. But, I’m not satisfied and that progress is not one to be kind of taken as a sense of victory because the data is just data. It’s a measure of whether what we’re trying to do is having an impact on peoples’ lives.”
Austin, chairman of the City Council’s Budget Committee, is one of Chicago’s most outspoken aldermen.
Earlier this week, she said she was not impressed with the 18 percent drop in homicides in 2013 after spending nearly $100 million on police overtime.
“Don’t tell me about no statistics of McCarthy’s. You say, `Well, statistically, we’re down. That means crap to me when I know that someone else has been shot,” she said.
“My uptick is still gang-related. If that can be squashed, it would be a help for us. . . . Superintendent McCarthy said when he first got to Chicago that he was going to go after the gang leaders and hold them accountable. I haven’t seen that happen out in Roseland. Maybe if he would bring that same statement and force to Roseland, then maybe it would happen.”
After joining McCarthy in presiding over a CompStat meeting at police headquarters, Emanuel agreed with Austin on that point as well.
“The gang leadership has to be targeted and taken off the streets so they’re not kind of wreaking havoc on the neighborhoods,” the mayor said.
This week’s jab was not the first time Austin has turned up the heat on McCarthy.
After the two girls were shot last summer, she demanded that the superintendent develop a “separate strategy” — possibly a strike force just for Area 2.
“We’re at the National Guard level now,” Austin, chairman of the City Council’s Budget Committee, said on that day in utter frustration.
“It has gotten so out of hand, you’ve got to show what your strategy is to combat this because we’re at Defcon 3.”