By Tio Hardiman
Chicagoans cannot wait to return to life as normal, and this includes the gunslingers and other notorious criminals.
With stay at home orders in effect, overall crime in the city has been down. But that old chronic problem, gun violence, has remained steady.
In the nation’s third largest city, we all know one thing is certain. As soon as Mayor Lori Lightfoot gives the green light for residents to leave their homes – traveling wherever they please and with no restrictions – Chicago will return to normal. That means more shootings and more murders from gun violence.
If the quarantine is lifted at the end of May, this can mean double trouble for our city. Summer is just around the corner. Warm weather, coupled with Chicagoans returning to the streets and making up for lost time, are the components for an extremely hot and dangerous Windy City.
This can present a real test for our new superintendent of police David Brown.
A few weeks ago, Mr. Brown, the former chief of police in Dallas, assumed probably the toughest law enforcement job in America.
Brown has a strong resume. He has a glossy national stature. He is a man of style in his tapered suits, and he is full of charm and charisma. He wowed our mayor and aldermen, and that within itself is hugely impressive.
So far, he has not disappointed. He is making his rounds around the department and city. He hit the ground running, stepping up police presence in neighborhoods where some citizens are known to violate the law and the city’s stay at home policy. And he is one to admit his missteps. He immediately apologized to some aldermen who felt slighted by his quick pace at eradicating crime. He moved so fast that they were not even aware of the beefed-up presence in their wards, while another North Side alderman was riled that some officers were shifted from his ward to where they were needed.
Superintendent Brown is learning quickly about the underhanded politics in Chicago, maybe the shady actions of the police union, and that you cannot please everyone. I believe keeping them in the dark might not have been a bad idea, because this is Chicago and when you are the new kid on the block you never know who might be leaking sensitive information to criminals who are not too happy that their businesses have been disrupted.
Now, the pressure is on for Superintendent Brown. He has announced a lofty 2020 goal. He wants the data to show that there have been less than 300 homicides in Chicago. The city has not been this safe since 1957. Every superintendent from Eddie Johnson, a Chicago insider with strong ties to the community, to Garry McCarthy, an ambitious leader who experienced success in Newark and New York, had ambitious goals. They saw some success, but the old open wound, gun violence, always consumed them.
I encourage Superintendent Brown to do things differently. The old models do not work in Chicago. If he wants to truly eradicate crime, he must bring everyone to the table, all the family, even the ones who some so-called insiders do not want to meet with again. You cannot heal a city or heal a rift in a family if everyone is not at the table. Let us not ignore longtime dedicated crime agitators and interrupters who have a proven track record of reducing violence in the streets.
It will take more than removing guns off the streets. We have been doing this for decades and the illegal guns just keep coming in. Guns are big business in this nation. If police presence is increased in Lawndale, Auburn Gresham, Roseland, Humboldt Park and Englewood, the crime and violence shift elsewhere. We have seen this happen repeatedly.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has a strong insight about crime and police and some understanding about the underlining causes of crime, is on the right path. But this problem is bigger than improved access to mental health care. We need what no mayor and no police superintendent have been able to do and that is to pour serious investment dollars into prime, underserved areas in Chicago.
Police presence does little to put food on the table. We need a united effort to invest in the businesses, schools, healthcare and infrastructure in long neglected sections of Chicago. When businesses strive, they hire people. When people have jobs, they do more for their families and demand more from their families. When the Lawndales, Englewoods and Humboldt Parks rebound, Chicago will rebound, and the violence and homicides will drop.
Until then, we will only see stats go up and down like a rollercoaster.
About Tio Hardiman
Dubbed “Mr. Ceasefire,” Tio Hardiman created the award-winning CeaseFire initiative in 2004, and has been dedicated to combating problems of violence and corruption in the nation’s third largest city.