A major American city is quickly being lost to guns, gangs, drugs and hopelessness, and political and business leaders are giving lip service to the problem. Yet while our politicians dither, the city’s Southside and Westside residents are living in perpetual fear, afraid to walk the streets.
It’s time for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to put his ego and political ambitions aside. It’s time for him to ask the state police and the National Guard to come into Chicago and assist the police department in regaining control of the city’s streets.
The July 4th weekend saw 84 people in Chicago shot and 16 killed. More than a thousand people have been shot since this year began. Nearly all of those killed, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, are black and Hispanic men 35 and under. There is no doubt in my mind that if 16 people were killed in one weekend on the prosperous North Side of Chicago, this country would be up in arms. It would be the No. 1 story in every newspaper and on every news channel nationwide. But I’ll save that for another piece.
Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said Sunday that hundreds of extra police officers were on the streets over the holiday weekend, and for a little while the streets were relatively quiet. But then things went haywire on Sunday, and 21 separate shooting incidents occurred.
Mayor Emanuel and police officials tout the fact that the city’s homicide rate has dropped this year, and have even said there are fewer deaths than there were two decades ago. Great. Wonderful. I’m sure that’s comforting to the families of the 16 people gunned down over the weekend.
To understand what’s happening in Chicago means looking at decades of racial segregation and economic apartheid that continues today. Tackling this massive problem requires a holistic approach, but first we must deal with the plague of gun violence visiting that city.
We can talk all day about jobs and education, and there is no doubt decades of failure in those areas are contributing to the violence in Chicago today. But before we can start talking about rebuilding areas affected by systemic poverty, we need to confront crime.
As a resident of Chicago for six years, I’ve witnessed its problems up close. I’ve had discussions with pastors, community leaders, police officials, parents, politicians and business leaders. And I have talked several times with Ret. Lt. Gen. Russell Honoré, the man who kicked butt and took names when he lead the military response in New Orleans after Huricane Katrina.
In September, I talked with Honoré during my segment on the Tom Joyner Morning Show. I’ve now spoken with him several times since, publicly and privately, and he says there is no doubt that the National Guard should be considered a serious option for Chicago.
“It’s one of the tools in the box. But the first thing, normally, is they would call the state police in for backup, and then federal law enforcement, to go after two things: go after the cartels that’s providing the contraband that’s fueling these gangs, which is drugs and the weapons,” Honoré told me.
“That’s the cartel thing of that end…What the national guard can do is they can help thicken the police support by lining up with the police, do the driving, then relieve policemen who are on patrol duty like guard duty downtown…the primary people to patrol the streets where this happen needs to be police officers with a combination of guard people helping them.”
Some critics have said that putting troops on the ground is the wrong signal to send. I disagree. There is no reason the National Guard can’t drop a dragnet over the hot spots in Chicago. They can erect barricades and check points, inspect cars, confiscate guns, run warrant checks and shut down the cartels in the city.
In effect, Chicago needs a troop surge like what we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan. If we wanted to make the lives of residents there safer, why not do the same for Americans?
Honoré says that’s exactly what needs to happen.
“And the police know how to do that. If [this violence] was happening on Michigan Avenue, they would have done that already,” Honore said.
“They would not allow that to happen at Soldier Field…You do need a surge on the Southside of Chicago…it has to be a collaborative effort with the people…these are tactical moves.”
He later added: “Secure the streets, take down the cartels and provide some security so people can sit on their porch and enjoy the liberties of this country. Because right now these gangs are running Chicago, not the mayor.”
Chicago is a city imperiled by impotent leadership that is unwilling to face down this crisis. It’s time for Rahm Emanuel to wake up and realize he needs help, and ask for the National Guard to help save the Windy City.