The Crusader Newspaper Group

Prospective top cop Snelling must address ‘driver of crime, poverty’

Photo caption: Larry Snelling at the introductory press conference. (Photo by Marcus Robinson)

Representative Ford and others say poverty generates crime

Representative La Shawn Ford (D-8th) strongly approved Mayor Brandon Johnson’s choice of Larry Snelling as Chicago’s next top cop, but cautioned if the new superintendent and the mayor don’t address “the driver of crime, poverty,” the cycle of violence will continue.

Snelling was named by Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson on Sunday, August 13, at a news conference. He introduced Snelling as his choice to lead the 12,000-officer police force in this, the nation’s third largest city.

Snelling’s selection follows a months-long search led by the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability. The selection is subject to City Council approval.

Once a hearing is held and the City Council approves his appointment, Snelling, Ford said, must address certain issues otherwise the fallout “will fall on his lap.”

During the news conference, Snelling said among his priorities are building trust within communities historically suspicious of police, ensuring high-level training for officers and attending to officers’ mental well-being.

Many, like pastor and community activist Father Michael Pfleger, felt the mayor made the right choice, but warned the road to success won’t be easy.

“Snelling is professional and well respected by both community and police,” said Pfleger. “The next step is for the community to step up. Our job now is to partner with him and begin a new day for Chicago policing.”

Glad a new day is here, Ford said Snelling, a native of Englewood who rose from patrol officer in 1992, to sergeant, and who is currently the Chief of the Bureau of Counterterrorism and is now the city’s prospective top cop, has to work closely with the mayor in dealing with the “drivers of crime,” societal issues, which Ford says are led by poverty.

He also wants Snelling to increase the number of Black police officers and to revise hiring practices, “especially in light of the new law concerning DACA recipients that will allow non-citizens to become police officers. More Black Americans on the force will help change the culture and build trust,” Ford said.

The issue of poverty was highlighted in February, 2017 by then Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, who conducted a two-month long listening tour of nine communities that revealed a “tale of two cities,” a Chicago where one side has resources and wealth and the other is neglected, poor and riddled with crime.

Boykin identified the nine most endangered communities as Austin, West Garfield Park, Englewood, Riverdale, Auburn Gresham, Gage Park, Washington Park, Fuller Park and North Lawndale. His findings indicate residents of those communities do not trust the police.

Boykin’s report highlighted the need for law enforcement to live in these communities.

Additional findings note there are exiting businesses, a lack of jobs, food deserts, and unsafe alleys and streets which need to be lit. The report further noted community members also would like to have more cameras installed, including on expressways, and they want to see more investment in community mental health services. The need for parental programs was highlighted as a concern, along with the need to create a truancy center with the sheriff’s department.

“The city of Chicago has become the epicenter for gun violence in America,” said Boykin. “These endangered communities are in a virtual state of emergency. Each of those communities is predominantly African American.”

With the Democratic Convention coming to Chicago Monday, August 19, 2024, through Thursday, August 22, 2024, Snelling has much work to do to curb the current high levels of crime.

Ford added, “Snelling has to have serious conversations with the mayor about the poverty issue, about mental health…all the drivers of crime,” he told the Chicago Crusader. “If you don’t do something about poverty and improving the educational outcomes, there will be a constant cycle of violence.”

Asked what the mayor can do about poverty, Ford said, “The mayor has departments and the power to work with Congress to address poverty. He can coordinate resources to deal with eliminating poverty in the city.

“You have to make sure that people can feed their families,” he said, emphasizing the need for Snelling to address poverty, the unemployment rate in the Black community, the dropout rate in public schools, the problems of homelessness in the Black community and substance abuse, where Black men are dying from overdosing.

“Drug problems create crime,” Ford said, as does hunger. “We need to have federal help to rid our streets of the open drug markets.”

“Snelling needs to talk about the drivers of crime,” Ford reiterated to the Chicago Crusader. “The major driver of crime is poverty,” he said. “When you have people who are unemployable, don’t have a high school education, they resort to the underground market. We have to pull people out of that.

“We still have a lot of Black people in the underground, including young people causing lots of problems with civil disobedience,” said Ford. “We need to talk about how we can help these children. Every community must have high quality education. The mayor takes his kid to Kenwood to school, and he lives in Austin. That’s a problem.”

Alderman David Moore (17th) said Snelling once worked in his ward. “He has to do what he’s always done, to be a person who is strong on crime and yet compassionate with the people in the community,” qualities he attributed to Snelling’s mentor, former Police Superintendent Fred Waller.

Reverend Mitty Collier, pastor of the More Like Christ (MLC) Christian Fellowship Ministries in Chicago, agrees that Snelling is highly qualified and being a native of Englewood ensures he is familiar with Chicago and its various neighborhood problems.

Collier admits Snelling’s job won’t be easy. “The morale of the city and the police is very low because of the previous top cop,” she told the Chicago Crusader, referring to the removal of former police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, fired by former Mayor Lori Lightfoot for a series of “ethical lapses.”

Referring to 54-year-old Snelling, who rose from sergeant in 2019 to superintendent in 2023, Collier believes he can “bring new life” to Chicago. “He is respected by the police and hopefully will surround himself with other young Godly men and women with ideas that will boost the morale.”

Asked if she thinks Snelling can curb Black-on-Black crime, especially the teen misbehavior incidents, Collier said, “I don’t know how some are blaming the mayor for an already existing problem.” That, she says, should be placed squarely on the shoulders of parents.

“If these teens were picked up and arrested when they were caught, the problem would stop,” Collier said, questioning the whereabouts of the parents. “Why are young people in the streets at midnight and beyond?”

Answering her own question, she quipped, “No parenting, no mothering, and no fathering. This is the wiles of Satan to get our children, who are our future, by any means necessary.”

Pastor Collier wants the mayor to hold town hall meetings and partner with community groups, including that of Pastor Victoria Brady, president/CEO of Annie B. Jones Community Services, whose documentary “The Other Side of Chicago” shows many groups making a difference in the city.

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