Residents in one Chicago ward are “giving up” on calling the police as the city fails to protect them from violent crime, according to one city council member.
Alderman Raymond Lopez described the violence plaguing his constituents in the city’s 15th Ward and beyond, slamming Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot, whose law enforcement policies and focus on systemic racism, he said, are doing little to stop the mostly gang-related violence.
“Generational gang life isn’t just something that’s encouraged. It’s almost revered in some neighborhoods,” Lopez, whose constituents are about 67% Latino and 22% black, told the Washington Examiner in an interview. “If you really want to get to what is at the heart of a lot of this, it is gangs, and it is the borderline collapse of the family unit in many of our neighborhoods ... [Lightfoot] has avoided calling out gangs in our community as a source of violence in our city.”
Gang life, which Lopez said reaches all the way from high school students to fourth- and fifth-graders, was responsible for the recent shooting death of a 14-year-old girl in one of his neighborhoods and other recent shootings.
During the June 4-6 weekend alone, five people were killed, and more than 50 others were shot, including an 11-year-old girl, across Chicago. While the number of some violent crimes such as robbery and aggravated battery is down, murders are up, according to city crime stats. With 282 year-to-date murders by the week ending on June 13, the homicide rate is up 5% from 2020 and 25% from 2019.
Part of the reason such killings continue is that local schools are taking a “hugs and kisses” approach to deal with known cases of gang affiliation among students, Lopez said, rather than one that informs the police and introduces the criminal justice system into the equation.
Lopez said that extends to the mayor, who has taken a reform-centric approach to policing by enacting changes such as tightening the police department’s foot pursuit policy.
Lightfoot has also focused much attention on addressing “root causes” of violence in the city, declaring on Thursday that racism is a public health crisis in Chicago after a city health department report found life expectancy between black and non-black is 9.2 years apart. Homicide is a major contributor to the early deaths of black residents, the report noted.
“At almost every single point in our city’s history, sadly, racism has taken a devastating toll on the health and well-being of our residents of color and particularly those who are black,” Lightfoot said Thursday.
“I think it’s a foil to avoid having to deal with [gang and other issues], period. Two hundred-plus murders in the city of Chicago, none of them were committed because of racism,” Lopez said. “I can tell you last week’s gang shooting had nothing to do with racism. The shooting in Englewood Monday morning, four people shot, three others injured, was not about racism.”
What the hell is going on tonight. I’m still on scene for the gang shooting in Back of the Yards and now 17 rounds fired off in front of Shields Elementary School in Brighton Park. This city needs to get its head out of its ass & get serious about confronting gangs.
— Ald. Raymond Lopez (@RLopez15thWard) June 3, 2021
This shooting has now turned into a homicide. A young woman picked up by her boyfriend for an evening out. They were “checked” for driving on their own block. She is now dead. CHECKED BY GANGS & SHOT DEAD! So many squirm to make excuses for gangs.
STOP IT NOW#CancelGangCulture https://t.co/JW1vTx4U6N
— Ald. Raymond Lopez (@RLopez15thWard) June 12, 2021
The measure of criticism which Lopez has directed at Lightfoot, particularly following her Thursday declaration, would seem unorthodox considering how the current political battle lines are drawn. Lopez is not a conservative Republican.
Although city aldermen run in non-partisan elections, he otherwise identifies as a Democrat and supports Democratic priorities such as federal gun control legislation. Yet, he has publicly diverged from Lightfoot and the prevailing Democratic posture on crime and policing.
“You're fighting at an amorphous enemy as opposed to targeting the low-hanging fruit that you can actually win and have an impact on,” Lopez said of Lightfoot’s focus on racism, going further to say the mayor’s Thursday declaration was about pleasing her “white, lakefront, liberal, woke supporters."
“She's playing the card to ensure that those that elected her stay with her, even as the city spirals out of control,” he added.
The problem Lopez is facing now, along with the violence, is a constituency reluctant to call the police, who he said don't respond to many low-priority calls due to staffing issues and other policing strategy reasons.
‘“I don’t call [the police]. What's the point?’” he recalled residents saying. “That doesn't mean the neighborhood is safer. That just means my residents are so frustrated.”
“They just don't give a s*** anymore because they feel the city doesn't give a s***,” Lopez added. “And that is entirely the wrong message to be giving.”
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Original Author: Jeremy Beaman
Original Location: Gang life, not racism, is responsible for Chicago's violence, alderman says