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Mayor Rahm Emanuel on hot seat over city’s murders

Brown: Economic and social breakdown reason for shootings
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Updated: August 11, 2012 6:19AM

How do you end hate?

I’m talking about the kind of hate that led a young man to shoot his mother to death because she nagged him, as well as the kind of hate that shows a blatant disregard for life, as when an alleged gang member fired a gun into a crowd, killing a 7-year-old girl who was standing on the street with her mother selling candy.

That’s the question at the heart of the violence that has made living in some Chicago neighborhoods as dangerous as living in Afghanistan or Iraq.

But on Monday, when Mayor Rahm Emanuel took the hot seat on “The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley,” he again tried to spin the violence plaguing the city.

“Why is the murder rate up 38 percent?” Pelley asked.

“First of all Scott, let’s give everybody — your viewers a fair view,” Emanuel said. “Crime year over year is down 10 percent . . . Burglary, armed robbery, theft, 10 percent. We have a gun violence issue specifically tied to gangs. So we have readjusted the strategy, closing liquor stores in communities where they are a magnet and a cancer in the community for gangs and narcotics, boarding up buildings and tearing them down where gang-bangers have taken them over, putting the commanders and the district leaders in responsible position and holding them accountable for results.”

This all sounds good, but we’ve heard it before and blood is still flowing in the street.

Frankly, while closing down nuisance liquor stores is always a good idea, 7-year-old Heaven Sutton didn’t get killed standing in front of a liquor store. She was standing in front of a candy stand set up in front of her house.

Why do so many young brown and black men resort to murder?

It is a difficult question.

So difficult that it is rarely considered, except by people like Ed Gardner, who founded the “Black-on-Black Love” Campaign two decades ago. Gardner knew deep in his gut that black-on-black crime was about more than greed and gangs. And that the violence that so easily erupted over a comment or a perceived act of disrespect was more about hatred than it was about crime.

As for the boarded-up buildings, tearing them down might push gang-bangers elsewhere on the block — like in front of the house where someone’s mother or grandmother is allowing all kinds of ungodly behavior to go on.

But because many of the people in these communities don’t trust police any more than they trust the people on the corner selling the drugs, they aren’t likely to pick up the phone and complain about loitering.

Despite the ongoing carnage, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy seems as confident as ever that he can drastically reduce the homicides by using strategies that include investigating the social networks of victims in gang-related homicides and by keeping police in areas they know.

“You have to be very aggressive in making sure the gang-bangers know that the police force and the community run the streets, they don’t,” the mayor said during the interview.

He also repeated his call for “gang-bangers” to stay away from the kids.

“Take yourself to the alley. Don’t get near them,” Emanuel said.

Those are strong words, but they are likely to do little to stop the killings.

There is no way Chicago is going to significantly reduce the violence without investing resources in the communities where the violence is occurring.

Every time an ex-felon walks out of prison and returns to the neighborhood without even a job prospect, that person is ripe for trouble.

And how long will a young person who is struggling with basic reading, writing and math skills be content to sit in the back of the classroom pretending to learn. It won’t be long before that kid finds himself carrying a gun like a bookbag.

Obviously, non-blacks have committed murder in this city.

But day after day, the faces of the victims and the perpetrators of homicides are black. Imagine how that must impact young black children who are trying to survive in neighborhoods hard hit by foreclosures and high unemployment.

Worse yet, the largest employer in some neighborhoods on the West and South Sides is still the drug trade.

The city needs to find additional resources so that there are alternatives to this negative pursuit in neighborhoods that are impacted by these violent crimes. Besides police presence, these residents need access to counseling, recreational facilities and jobs.

Actually helping the people who are being impacted by the killings is a first step toward breaking this negative cycle.

After all, love has always overcome hate.

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