Chicago's Murders: Will more police solve the problem?
Chicago recorded its 436th homicide Oct. 27, surpassing the total of 435 for all of 2011. Three days earlier at the city council budget hearing, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and members of the Chicago Police Department met with aldermen and discussed the number of police needed to combat the city's homicide problem.
The CPD currently has around 12,000 officers patrolling the streets. Emanuel plans to deploy an additional 500 officers by the end of 2013, yet some alderman feel that number is too small.
CBS Chicago reported that 22nd Ward Ald. Ricardo Munoz said during the hearing, "If we're at full-strength today, it's not sufficient. We need more officers in our neighborhoods. We need to figure out how to budget for more police officers to be on the beat, in the neighborhoods to prevent this crime," he said. "We have to get creative."
Maybe instead of getting creative with the budget, we should be getting creative with our solutions. Neighborhoods like Englewood on the South Side have been through so much urban decay that the community needs a complete transformation, socially and physically.
The abandoned homes in this neighborhood create an environment conducive to drug dealing, prostitution, and rape. The unemployment rate fuels the lure towards gangs; a lifestyle that is amassing tens of thousands of Chicago residents.
Maybe instead of budgeting more police officers, there can be a greater emphasis on repairing these neighborhoods and establishing more long-term solutions.
On Chicago's West Side, Austin is one of the most violent neighborhoods. Members of this community were stunned after their local YMCA abruptly closed due to low membership and an aging facility. L.C Redmond, executive director of the South Austin Coalition, commented to the Chicago Sun-Times, "If the city is really serious about addressing the issue of violence, why are they closing safe havens like the Y which keep kids from being victims of violence?"
Statistics have shown that more police officers do not necessarily equate to less crime. The cities with the most police officers per capita also have some of the highest murder rates. The website Governing.com reported in 2010 that Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C were in the top five in officers per capita in U.S cities. Today, these cities are still some of the most violent in the country.
Murder rates are based on the number of homicides per 100,000 citizens in a given population. According to numbers released by the Redeye in July, New Orleans had the highest murder rate of 32.65 with 112 total murders. Chicago was ranked at number eight with a murder rate of 10.83. However, Chicago had a total of 292 murders, which was the highest total out of any city on the list. Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C were also among the top ten in homicide rates.
Alyssa Barker, a DePaul senior, also feels that additional police officers will not create a long-term solution to this problem.
"I think that we have a lot of police officers now and homicide is still a problem," said Barker, who lives off of 79th street on the South Side.
"I think that it's important to go to the root of the problem, which is to go to the neighborhoods and actually help the kids in the neighborhood and create resources for the kids to understand that there is a different way of living," she said. "You don't have to resort to violence to get money; to get a better life. The police are to help when the problem occurs, but you have to help beforethe problems occur."
Instead of hiring more police, the city might consider putting money into programs like "Cure Violence." Cure Violence is an outreach program that looks at violence as a treatable epidemic. Outreach members serve as "interrupters" to violence; they interact with community members and try to disrupt the flow of violence.
Some of the Cure Violence members are former gang members and community residents who have credibility in these neighborhoods. They attempt to change the norms in these communities and intercept and defuse conflicts on a day-to-day basis.
Cure violence started in 2000 in West Garfield Park. According to their website, they produced a 28 percent decrease in shootings and killings and 22 percent decrease in attempted shootings that year. They have also seen positive results in the Englewood and Auburn Grisham neighborhoods.
The violence in Chicago is in serious need of a solution, or at least a progression towards one. Adding more police officers to the equation does not change the physical or social landscape of these violent neighborhoods.
Programs like Cure Violence appear more willing to get in and do the dirty work. They are trying to change the norms and violent mentalities of these communities from the inside out. They know first-hand the street lifestyle and can relate to the youth members that they are trying to reach.
There is no clear solution to this problem, and there are many factors contributing to Chicago's complex murder crisis. Yet additional police officers will just be a temporary way to stop the bleeding. These violent communities must undergo drastic restructuring at some point if they are ever to flourish again.
While Cure Violence might not wind up being the cure-all to this epidemic of violence in Chicago; at least they are being creative.
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