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Editorial: Discouraging stories of the day

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy speaks after injured Chicago Police Officers were transported Northwestern Memorial Hospital Chicago Ill. Wednesday November

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy speaks after injured Chicago Police Officers were transported to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Ill., on Wednesday, November 28, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 7, 2013 7:16AM

Stitched together, three stories in Wednesday’s Sun-Times read like chapters in one of the most discouraging books you’ll find.

The common theme: violence, poverty and the hollowing out — physically and psychologically — of some of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods.

The story begins with the worst of the symptoms: the total disregard for life in some pockets of our city.

The Sun-Times’ Frank Main took readers to a funeral in West Englewood where dozens of police officers showed up with assault rifles. A little much, you ask? Not when you know the backstory. The young man, a reputed gang member, who was laid to rest Tuesday was brutally murdered the week before on the steps of a Park Manor church after the funeral of another man. Hundreds of mourners streamed past his body in horror.

To prevent a repeat, Chicago police showed up in force at the second funeral. For the day, police kept a lid on things: “Nobody got shot,” Cmdr. Christopher Fletcher told Main. “Mission accomplished.”

More efforts to quell the city’s out-of-control crime problem were chronicled in Michael Sneed’s column. Supt. Garry McCarthy, she reported, has named seven new police commanders. Since arriving in 2011, McCarthy has replaced 19 of the city’s 23 commanders. In a year where homicides are up 19 percent and shootings 11 percent, the command changes are part of a larger strategy to fight crime.

We’re all for it, but crime-fighting is just one piece. Police are best at controlling what ails this city, not changing the conditions that breed crime. For that we need better schools, stronger communities, more responsible parents and stronger social services.

The third story is just one example of where Chicago falls short. Faced with declining population on the West and South sides, where crime is at its worst, communities are struggling with under-enrolled and low-performing schools. The school system on Tuesday released a list of under-enrolled schools — neighborhood institutions that are now at risk of closure.

These hollowed out communities are Chicago’s greatest liabilities and its greatest potential. Invest right — in better schools, stronger families and richer supports — and one day we may finally rewrite this Chicago story.

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