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Rahm Emanuel, Garry F. McCarthy and Evelyn Diaz: How we are making Chicago safer

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Police Supt. Garry McCarthy together last year.  |  Al Podgorski~Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy together last year. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 8, 2013 6:30AM

The health and well-being of Chicagoans goes hand in hand with the safety of our neighborhoods and our streets.

While we’ve seen progress over the last couple of months, with fewer murders in February and March than we’ve seen in years, there is more work to do. To sustain these advances, we must continue our multifaceted approach: strategic policing, stiffer penalties, smart prevention and sound parenting. By coordinating our efforts, we will continue to make Chicago safer. The decline in murders and crime across the board is a testament to the strength of our police force and the resolve of our community. Over the past two years we have led a sea change in policing in our city, with a return to community policing, a comprehensive gang violence reduction imitative, new narcotics initiatives, a focus on quality of life enforcement and much more.

Through strategic saturation, we are deploying officers to neighborhoods that need them most. We have also graduated 214 new officers this year, with at least 600 new officers by fall. These officers are hitting the beat in high-priority areas, and officers are getting out of cars and into the community, building trust and respect.

The police cannot carry the burden of public safety alone. To complement their efforts, we need to impose stiffer penalties for gun crimes. We have seized more than 1,800 guns in 2013 — more than any other major city — but too often the arrests are nullified by ineffective penalties.

For those who commit serious gun crimes, the door to a prison cell cannot be a turnstile. Just as we are reducing the jail time served for minor, nonviolent offenses, we need Springfield to pass stronger legislation that sets minimum sentencing for illegal gun possession and requires offenders to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.

We cannot forget our efforts to keep kids away from crime in the first place are just as essential. By working with groups such as the Local Initiative Support Corporation and its community partners, neighborhoods that are impacted by violence can renew their trust in us, and that starts with youth programs and continues with community development.

Throughout the city, we are engaging our kids in constructive activities outside of school. We increased the budget for after-school programs and the number of summer jobs for teens, and expanded the city’s “Summer of Learning” program to ensure that students move forward during the summer months. Thanks to NBA legend Isiah Thomas, we raised enough money to expand the Windy City Hoops program and give 800 more teens a safe, fun activity on weekends. But no policy out of City Hall, no principal at CPS, and no police officer at CPD can do the work of parents. It is in the home where our children learn right from wrong and learn the value of an education.

Through programs like “Becoming A Man,” we know at-risk kids benefit from positive role models and mentors, and we are doubling our investment in this and other programs. But what government or its partners can provide certainly comes second to a parent’s support. For our kids to realize their potential, we have to meet our responsibilities.

The sharp decline in murders and shootings is a testament to our hard work and a reminder of the work to come. There are many challenges to overcome, but by working together, we create a safer future for every child in Chicago.

Rahm Emanuel is the mayor of Chicago, Garry F. McCarthy is the police superintendent. Evelyn Diaz is commissioner of the Department of Family and Support Services.

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