The Crusader Newspaper Group

New task force seeks funds to stem gun violence

By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader

The 17-member Cook County Gun Violence Task Force Tuesday plans to ask the U.S. Homeland Security for millions of dollars to fight gangs and create jobs for brothers on the street.

Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin has asked the federal government to share Homeland Security dollars that have already been programmed for counties and cities. “We want to use those Homeland security dollars to fight gangs in the neighborhoods as opposed to going after ISIS or al-Qaeda because every day you see gangs in the neighborhood,” Boykin said.

“People on the South and West sides are living in zones in terror and are living in fear and are being annihilated by gun violence…stray bullets hitting individuals who are innocent casualties of war. We must protect people at all cost.”

The plan is among many ideas that were pitched at a recent meeting to help curb gun violence in Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Father Michael L. Pfleger made it clear, “If we’re just making recommendations for legislators, it’s a waste of time because we don’t have a legislative body that’s working in Illinois. It’s dysfunctional.”

The meeting was also attended by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, Cmdr. Mike Anton, the gun coordinator with Dart’s office, Illinois State Police Lt. Col. Isaiah D. Vega, Jessica L. Trame, Bureau Chief, Firearms Services Bureau of the Illinois State Police and other community members.

Agreeing with Dart who said they would make “concrete” recommendations that are achievable, Pfleger told reporters  “Springfield is dysfunctional. Congress is dysfunctional, so it is important for us to communicate with each other.” That, he said, is what is missing.

Pfleger chided the Chicago Police Department for being a no show. “They said it was a scheduling conflict, but there are a lot of people in the police department. Somebody could have come,” he said.

“Why are only 24 percent of crimes being solved? Is it a problem with reporting, the police department, the state’s attorney? It’s unconscionable to me that we have only 24 percent (of crimes solved); so we’re sending a message out. You can shoot and kill in Chicago and nothing happens to you,” said Pfleger.

Saying the task force won’t end gun violence but can help reduce it, Pfleger wants owners of the gun shops to explain why they can’t do their best in stopping the proliferation of illegal guns.

“In Chicago already we have had a 130 percent increase in killings. Let’s try everything we can because it’s blood on our streets,” said Pfleger. “If we go through legislation (to stop illegal guns) we are all wasting our time. We can’t get a budget in this state. How can we get a law passed. We have a dysfunctional government in Illinois.”

Asked by this reporter if hiring more police is the answer, Pfleger said, “Not until we change the culture of the police practice-not until we change the trickle down into the district; just getting more police is not the answer. One of the reasons we’re not solving crimes is because there is a lack of detectives. Until we change some of the practices, just getting more police is not going to help.”

When asked if diversity is important, Pfleger said, “That is absolutely important because people in the community have to see people who look like them, think like them and have mentalities that can relate with each other, and we’ve not been very good at that in Chicago.” Saying the issue of gun violence is comprehensive, Pfleger said, “We are living in a city under siege right now. It’s a war zone out here.”

This was the first Cook County Gun Violence Task Force meeting, according to Boykin.

Boykin said two additional meetings will be held on March 15 and April 19.  He said the charge of the task force is to come up with a single set of policy recommendations to the County Board, the City Council and the state of Illinois. It is comprised of representatives from these three governmental bodies.

The task force is recommending holding parenting workshops by partnering with non-profit organizations. “Everything begins at home,” Boykin said. “This is an investment on the front end rather than on the back end, in terms of prisons and jails.”

Boykin said the county has violence prevention dollars that could be used.

The second recommendation is stricter enforcement of curfew laws that would include the Chicago police, the sheriff’s police and the Illinois police working together. “We know that in the hours of 12 midnight and 6 a.m. a lot of these shootings occur.”

The task force also agreed on an emergency jobs program that is patterned after the 1939 Works Progress Administration (WPA), where millions of people were hired to do a myriad of jobs. That, Boykin said, is his “Marshall Plan” to help stem gun violence.  He said studies have shown that in 77 neighborhoods in Chicago where the highest level of unemployment exists, there also exist the highest levels of gun violence.


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