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Chicago Mayor To Address Effort To Reduce Gun Violence


The numbers in the city of Chicago, they're just staggering. More than 3,000 people have been shot this year, more than 500 killed. That's already more than all of last year. And Chicago has recorded more murders this year than New York and Los Angeles combined. The city announced yesterday it will hire nearly 1,000 new police officers over the next two years. And Mayor Rahm Emanuel outlined a broader effort to try to reduce gun violence in a highly-anticipated speech tonight. From Chicago, NPR's David Schaper reports.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: I'm standing on a street corner on Chicago's west side in the West Garfield Park neighborhood, where, quite honestly, the gang and gun violence problem is not new. But longtime residents here say they never thought it would get this bad.

MARSHALL HATCH: It's just this constant barrage of violence that seems to get more and more heinous.

SCHAPER: Reverend Marshall Hatch is pastor of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, and he has the unenviable task of preparing yet another funeral for a victim of gang violence.

HATCH: There was a 15-year-old in our congregation who was apparently - limbs broken, shot, put in a garbage can, set afire. And they had to be identified through dental records - just this past weekend.

SCHAPER: It's one of 44 homicides so far this month in Chicago, where the number of killings has soared nearly 50 percent over last year.


EDDIE JOHNSON: The shootings and gang violence haven't been this intense in a long time.

SCHAPER: Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson announcing yesterday that the city will soon begin to hire nearly 1,000 new police officers.


JOHNSON: This will make us a bigger department, better department and a more effective department.

SCHAPER: Without saying so directly, Johnson's announcement is a tacit acknowledgement that the Emanuel administration's strategy of covering staffing shortfalls with officers working overtime just hasn't worked.


JOHNSON: And we can't rob Peter to pay Paul when it comes to the safety of our city. We need more patrol officers, and we need them where they're needed the most.

SCHAPER: Across the city, neighborhood leaders and elected officials have long been calling for more cops. Pastor Marshall Hatch applauds the hiring of more police. But...

HATCH: That's what is called a short-term solution. I mean, obviously, everybody knows you can't police yourself out of a problem like this when the real problem is poverty, despair and disinvestment.

SCHAPER: Mayor Rahm Emanuel has acknowledged as much, and he's hinted that in his speech tonight he will offer comprehensive solutions that focus on education, mentoring and economic development. Hatch's advice...

HATCH: The only message ultimately that makes sense is that this city is going to engage in a concerted effort to make sure that these communities are heavily invested in.

SCHAPER: Others aren't expecting much from Emanuel's address.

TIO HARDIMAN: The mayor does not have a clue in regards of what it will take to reduce killings and shootings in Chicago.

SCHAPER: Tio Hardiman of the group Violence Interrupters says the city's crime fighting strategies are often misguided. And after the Laquan McDonald video and other police shootings, he says many African-Americans here don't trust the police nor the mayor. Political strategist Delmarie Cobb agrees that this is a critical moment.

DELMARIE COBB: We're at a tipping point.

SCHAPER: Cobb points out that Mayor Emanuel promised to hire a thousand new cops when first campaigning for office more than five years ago and never did. She also accuses him of failing to make good on neighborhood investments while the city has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into downtown development. She says now Emanuel must get it right, not just in his speech but in his actions that follow.

COBB: If he doesn't, then he's done for.

SCHAPER: Cobb agrees it's all about economic development and opportunity, or as another community leader puts it, the best defense against a bullet is a job. David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.