Barack Hussein Obama's Legacy as a Chicago Community Organizer

Chicago homicides climbed dramatically in January

FEBRUARY 1, 2016

Associated Press

Chicago saw a dramatic spike in the number of homicides and shootings in January – the bloodiest start to a year in at least 16 years and a blow to a police force struggling to regain public trust following the release of a video of a white officer fatally shooting a black teen.

In a news release Monday, Chicago police reported that 51 homicides were committed in the city last month, compared with 29 in January 2015. The number of shooting incidents more than doubled, from 119 last January to 242 this January. The number of shooting victims increased from 136 to 292.

“We can’t put our finger on” specific reasons for the increase, the city’s interim police superintendent, John Escalante, said. But he noted the increase coincides with an equally dramatic decrease in the number of street stops made in January.

He noted that the decrease come after a policy change that went into effect this year requires officers to fill out lengthier forms than the brief “contact cards” they used through 2015. It could be that officers are taking more time to fill out the forms as they adjust to the change, preventing them from making more stops, he said. Officers are going through training now to help them deal with the new forms, he said.

Escalante also said officers have expressed concerns “about being the next viral video. Even when they’re doing something right, they’re concerned that their actions will be questioned and they will be the one that goes viral.”

Chicago has become a national symbol of gun violence since at least 2012, when the number of homicides climbed past the 500 mark, far higher than any other U.S. city. With police initiating a number of crime-fighting measures and spending millions of dollars on overtime, the city saw the total fall closer to 400 in each of the next two years, and 2014 ended with the fewest homicides in decades. But last year the number of homicides and shooting incidents rose again.

There has been a growing concern that the rising number of shootings and homicides in Chicago, and around the country, can be linked to less aggressive policing following high-profile officer shootings, some of which were caught on camera and inflamed public outrage.

In October, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said officers are going “fetal,” pulling back and second-guessing themselves for fear that scrutiny of their actions would get them into trouble.

Then in late November, the city dealt with one of the biggest crises in Chicago Police Department history – and of Emanuel’s political career– sparked by the release of a video showing a white officer shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times. Officer Jason Van Dyke has been charged with murder in the shooting, police Superintendent Garry McCarthy was fired and the U.S. Department of Justice launched a civil rights investigation.

Escalante said he does not believe the McDonald video has made officers reluctant to do their jobs, point out that the department didn’t have a significant drop in the number of street stops in December.

Growing clamor for Obama to visit Chicago, address city's violence

Chicago Tribune
Dahleen Glanton
February 5, 2013

When times are tough, the distraught have long sought comfort in the old church hymn "The Solid Rock."

"In times like these," the song goes, "we need a savior."

In Chicago communities overwhelmed by violence, some people are now singing a different tune. In times like these, they say, we need our president.

With each new victim added to the city's homicide roster, calls for President Barack Obama to visit Chicago and speak out on the issue have grown louder. The death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot last week in a North Kenwood park, cranked up the volume.

What began as gentle pleas for a little attention from the White House has turned into demands that the president hop on Air Force One, stocked with its usual horde of national media, and get to Chicago.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson led relatives of slaying victims on a South Side march last weekend, calling for Obama to come to Chicago and focus attention on the problems at home. A petition on the White House's "We the People" website urges the president and first lady to attend Hadiya's funeral Saturday.

Some might think that's too much to ask. But it wouldn't be the first time the president has shown up at a service to make a point about gun violence. Two years ago, he and first lady Michelle Obama traveled to Tucson, Ariz., to attend a memorial for victims of a shooting that killed six and injured 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Some Chicagoans think the president has even a greater reason to attend Hadiya's funeral. She was just back from participating in a presidential inaugural event near Washington when she was killed in Kenwood, the community that the president calls home.

If that doesn't get him to Chicago, they ask, what will?

So far, the president hasn't had much to say about Hadiya's death, though a White House spokesman has said the president and first lady's thoughts and prayers are with the teen's family.

In a city where homicides claimed more than 500 lives last year and the January toll kept up the murderous pace, people are desperate for answers. They hunger for reassurance that the lives of minority children in Chicago are as valued as the lives of white children in the suburbs. They long to know that the nation has their back and that they aren't lone warriors in the battle to save them.

In times like these, they want their president to act presidential.

They want him to comfort families of slain children here, just as he did in Newtown, Conn., after 26 people were shot to death in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

They want to hear the same promise made to grieving Sandy Hook parents, in the encouraging voice that only the commander in chief can provide, that he will use "whatever power" he has to end the shootings.

In African-American communities where gun violence is rampant, people want something extra from the first black president. They want him to say publicly to young men, as one black man to another: Put down your guns.

"If the president told them to put down their guns, they'd do it," said Juandalyn Holland, executive director of Teamwork Englewood, a community support group. Holland told me the president is the one person young people truly respect, and they are looking for his leadership.

To many of us, it's hard to believe that anyone, even the president, has the power to stop the violence. But in desperate times, anything seems worth a try.

The people calling on their president aren't all that concerned about how a visit to Chicago might play out politically on Mayor Rahm Emanuel's turf. And some African-Americans have put aside their concerns about publicly criticizing the president. Until his re-election last November, few leaders in the black community were willing to call out the president.

Now they are. They say it's not enough to simply mention Chicago in passing, as he did in Newtown.

"As a country, we have been through this too many times," the president said. "Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these children are our children."

Now, even some of Obama's staunchest supporters are calling for a full-court press in Chicago. They are lobbying for Chicago to become more than just a footnote in the national conversation about gun violence.

The Rev. Michael Pfleger, a longtime anti-violence activist on the South Side, is urging Obama to bring his bully pulpit to Chicago. Where the president goes, resources follow, said Pfleger, who preached about that Sunday at St. Sabina Catholic Church.

"Let's be realistic," Pfleger told me Monday. "We have become an America used to black and brown children being shot and killed. It's almost an expectation that that happens in those communities.  The president can be a unifying force in America by saying: These are America's children."

Pfleger would like to see the president make an important urban policy speech in Chicago. But others say the important thing is that he come here, even if he simply repeats what he said in Newtown.

"Surely, we can do better than this," Obama told the nation then. "We have an obligation to try."

4 dead, 19 wounded in overnight shootings in city

By William Lee
Chicago Tribune
July 5, 2012

Four men were killed and at least 19 other people, including a 16-year-old boy, were wounded in overnight shootings across the city, according to police.

Police responded to the violence on a steamy night punctuated by the constant calls of illegal fireworks. One of the shootings occurred in Washington Park on the South Side where hundreds of families were celebrating the July 4th holiday.

The first homicide of the night occurred around 11:20 p.m. Wednesday. Antonio D. Givan, 35, was shot in the head during an attempted hold-up in the 100 block of East 68th Street, about two blocks east of the Dan Ryan Expressway, police said.

Given lived in the the 6900 block of South Emerald Avenue, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.

Around the same time, police found Corey Parker, 27, dead from apparent gunshot wounds to the head and chest in the 1500 block of West 78th Street in the Gresham neighborhood, authorities said. Parker, of the 7800 block of South Laflin Street, was pronounced dead at 3:55 a.m.

Just after 2 a.m., Anthony Suarez was riding in a car in the 1800 block of West 45th Street when another car pulled alongside and someone inside opened fire.

Suarez, 27, was struck in the chest and was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, authorities said.

At about 3:40 a.m., an 18-year-old man was shot in the chest in the 4800 block of West St. Paul Avenue in the North Austin neighborhood. He was dead at the scene, police said. His identity wasn't immediately released.

In other shootings:

• A 26-year-old man suffered a graze wound to the head as he walked with a group of people through Ogden Park in the 6500 block of South Racine Avenue just before 4 a.m., police said. He was taken to Provident Hospital in good condition.

• Three men were shot as they walked down the street in the 1300 block of South Millard Avenue just before 3 a.m., police said. All three were taken to hospitals with minor wounds, police said.

• A 21-year-old man suffered a minor wound about 2:12 a.m. in the 3900 block of West Augusta Boulevard. He was treated at a hospital and released.

• Two men were shot as they stood on a sidewalk in the 4200 block of South Wells Street at about 1:50 a.m. A 23-year-old man was listed in good condition with a gunshot wound to the thighs. A 20-year-old man was stable at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center.

• A 16-year-old boy was shot in the right calf and thigh in the 3600 block of South Wolcott Avenue as he stood on a sidewalk at about 1:45 a.m. He was taken to Stroger Hospital in good condition. Police say they are looking for two suspects.

• A woman was struck in the thigh in the 2800 block of South Christiana Avenue in the Little Village neighborhood at 1:40 a.m. Her condition wasn't immediately known, police said.

• A 23-year-old man was shot in the forearm as he drove in the 2700 block of North Hoyne Avenue at about 1 a.m., police said. He was taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in good condition.

• An 18-year-old man was shot in the right ankle as he stood with a group of people in the 6200 block of South Wood Street at about 12:50 a.m. He was taken to Christ Medical Center in good condition.

• A gunman standing in a gangway shot three men on a sidewalk in the 3500 block of West 38th Place in the Brighton Park neighborhood at about 12:10 a.m. Thursday, police said. All three were taken to Mount Sinai Hospital.

An 18-year-old man was listed in critical condition with a wound to the chest, while doctors stabilized a 22-year-old man who was struck in the lower back. A 23-year-old man wounded in his left hand and right thigh was listed in good condition.

• A man in his 20s was shot in the buttocks in the 7500 block of South Union Avenue just before midnight, police said. He was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.

• A 25-year-old man was standing on a sidewalk in the 7200 block of South Morgan Street at about 11:20 p.m. when he was shot, police said. It was unclear whether the man was targeted or hit by a stray bullet. The man was treated for the minor wound and listed in good condition, police said.

• A man in his 40s was found shot in the head in the 700 block of West 71st Street in the Englewood neighborhood at 10:50 p.m., police said. He was taken to Stroger Hospital in critical condition.

• At 11:57 p.m., a 19-year-old man was shot in the back when someone opened fire from a passing sedan in the 13200 block of South Forrestville Avenue in the Golden Gate neighborhood on the Far South Side. He was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center, where his condition was stabilized, police said. The shooting is believed to be gang-related.

• A 32-year-old man was shot in the abdomen about 9:30 p.m. in Washington Park in the 5500 block of South Cottage Grove Avenue, where hundreds of families were celebrating the holiday, police said. The man was taken to Stroger in serious condition, police said.

 No arrests had been made in any of the shootings, police said.

15 shot and wounded in six hours across Chicago

July 4, 2012
Chicago Tribune

Fifteen people were wounded by gunfire over six hours across the city, including a 10-year-old girl trying to escape the heat at an open fire hydrant in the South Austin community on the West Side, authorities said.

The girl and her mother's boyfriend, 24, were hit when shots were fired in the street in the 200 block of North Leamington Avenue around 11:20 p.m. Tuesday, citing early reports.

The girl, struck in the left hand and the abdomen, was taken to West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park before being transferred to Stroger Hospital in critical condition, said Officer Hector Alfaro, a police spokesman.

The boyfriend, Paul Allen, was taken to West Suburban in good condition with a wound to the right hand.

The rash of shootings began around 5 p.m. when a 15-year-old boy was wounded in the left armpit in a park in the 8500 block of South Peoria Street, Zala said. The park is next to Gresham Elementary School.

The boy was in the park when another young man or boy came up and shot him, Zala said. The boy was taken to Little Company of Mary Hospital, he said. The investigation was continuing, but initial indications are that the shooting was not gang-related.

• About a half hour later, a man and three boys, ages 14 to 19, were wounded near 60th Street and Rockwell Street in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood when someone drove by and opened fire, said Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Veejay Zala.

One boy, 14, was shot in the right hand and another, also 14, was shot in the right foot. A 15-year-boy was shot in the right knee. And a 19-year-old was shot in the right thigh.

The Fire Department only had information on three victims. One person was taken in serious-to-critical condition to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, a second in fair-to-serious condition to Holy Cross Hospital, and a third in fair-to-serious condition to St. Bernard Hospital, according to Fire Department spokesman Will Knight.

• A few minutes earlier, a man and a woman were shot in the 3800 block of West Augusta Boulevard, Zala said. Again, someone drove by and fired about 5:30 p.m., hitting the 34-year-old woman  in the buttocks and grazing the 21-year-old man.

The woman was taken to a hospital for treatment, but the man refused medical attention, Zala said.

• In the North Side Sheridan Park neighborhood, two women and a man -- all believed to be in their 20s -- were wounded in the 4400 block of North Racine Avenue just before 7:30 p.m. in what was also believed to be a drive-by shooting, Zala said. Their conditions were stable, Zala said.

• An 18-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman were wounded in a drive-by shooting near a bus stop at about 8:15 p.m. in the 2300 block of West Washington Boulevard on the Near West Side.

The man, an alleged member of the Gangster Disciples street gang, was riding a scooter when he was struck in the side, police said. The woman was hit in the foot, police said, citing early reports. Both victims were treated at the scene, according to the Chicago Fire Department.

The man was the apparent target of a gunman inside a van, police said.

• About 10:15 p.m., a 48-year-old man was wounded in the right knee by an acquaintance in the 700 block of North St. Louis Avenue, police said. He was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital. The suspected gunman remained at-large.

Spike in violence takes its toll on residents in Chicago's troubled neighborhoods

Teacher says threat of crime reshapes people's everyday lives, choices
July 01, 2012|
By Lolly Bowean and Jeremy Gorner, Chicago Tribune reporters

Some dogs don't bark anymore at the sound of gunfire in Chicago's Lawndale neighborhood.

It wasn't until one of Tiffany Childress' young students made that observation that the longtime resident of the West Side neighborhood realized the truth of the statement.

Day after day, night after night, there are the random sounds — of bullets flying, mothers screaming, police sirens blaring, she said. The noises have become so common that not even the dogs seem to react.

"I don't walk around feeling afraid," said Childress, who lives on a quiet, stable block but is not far from well-known, illegal drug markets. Still, there is often a nervous itch in the pit of her stomach.

"There is so much random crossfire, you never know what will happen," she said last week during a walk in her neighborhood. "I don't think we live in fear. But we live with a numbness to all the death and violence. It's like living in a constant state of post-traumatic stress."

For the first six months of this year, homicides numbered more than 250 in Chicago for the first time since 2003, according to Police Department statistics. Through Thursday, homicides totaled 254, a 37 percent increase over the 186 homicides posted during the same period last year. Shootings have also risen by 9 percent.

And, traditionally, more homicides occur in Chicago during the second half of the year, authorities said.

While violent crime has increased overall in Chicago, it's in neighborhoods such as Lawndale, Woodlawn and Little Village that the rise in shootings and homicides has been particularly jarring.

The West Side's Ogden Police District, which covers Lawndale and Little Village, had the most homicides of the city's 23 police districts so far this year. Through Thursday, 24 homicides took place, up 71 percent from 14 homicides last year. Shootings have increased by 52 percent.

In the South Side's Grand Crossing District, which covers Woodlawn and other neighborhoods, 21 homicides have occurred so far this year, nearly double the 11 homicides a year earlier. Shootings in the district have risen 66 percent.

Chicago police and city officials have blamed the increased violence on the splintering of street gangs, which now operate more like loose collections of cliques. While acknowledging the uptick, the department has noted that homicide statistics for the past three months of this year have shown an improvement over the first quarter of the year. Homicides had risen by 60 percent through the first three months of 2012.

The department has credited the use of its "gang audits" — specialized units sharing gang intelligence with beat officers — with helping bring that percentage down. Still, Robert Tracy, chief of the department's crime control strategies, said the current statistics are "unacceptable."

"The first quarter is already there, and there's nothing we can do about that. But … we're putting plans in place to ensure that we don't have that happen again," he said.

Police have also said they are increasing their presence and stepping up patrols in certain areas. Last week, officials announced a controversial partnership with CeaseFire, an anti-violence organization that is largely staffed by ex-felons. The city of Chicago has granted the group $1 million for a pilot program in the Grand Crossing and Ogden districts in hopes of helping drive down the gang conflicts and reduce violent crime.

The people who live in the neighborhoods don't care if the problem is about gangs or turf; they just want relief.

"I've seen a lot of people ... shot in my community. It's very disturbing," said Raul Montes Jr., a community activist and Little Village resident who advocates for more police surveillance cameras.

Mark Carter, a Lawndale businessman, blames the economic decline for the rise in violent crime. In his neighborhood, he has felt the desperation that has pushed men onto the streets selling everything from loose cigarettes to marijuana to earn a dollar.

"Living here is now like living in Iraq," he said. "Hearing gunshots has become normal."

Childress made a conscious decision to live in Lawndale as part of a movement of residents who want to redevelop the community through investment. As a high school teacher, she works with students and residents to curb violence and find solutions.

But for her and other residents there, the spike in violent crime shapes their every move.

They carefully calculate when they will take out their trash and how to get to their cars to go to work. They contemplate what will happen if they are outdoors during a shooting. And they coach themselves on how to respond when they are in their homes and hear the sound of gunfire.

"You know, some people go their whole lives and never know a kid that's been killed. Our kids … they go to funerals every month," Childress said.

In parts of the South Side, the violence is just as troubling.

Chicago Got More Bodies Than Kabul, Afghanistan
June 17, 2012

It's official! The streets of Chicago have become a war zone as more homicides have been reported than that of the war in Afghanistan.

According to data revealed by the Daily, it showed that while 144 Americans have died in Afghanistan in 2012, a whopping 228 Chicago residents have been killed, and the murder rate is up a staggering 35 percent from last year.

In an effort to curb the numbers, Chicago announced it will allow police in the cash-strapped city to work overtime at time-and-a-half pay in order to put more officers on the street.

The move comes as Mayor Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s former chief of staff, is under increased pressure to find a way to stem the violence. Last weekend, nine people were killed and 53 were shot, just two weeks after 10 people died and dozens more were wounded in gun-related mayhem.

Daniel Gorman, vice president of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police said that- “Just look at what’s been happening every single weekend…Although we appreciate the overtime, we still can’t ignore that we’ve got a manpower crisis, and the recent violence in the city is proof of that crisis.”

On the state level, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law this week that gives police the power to prosecute street gang leaders for the crimes of their underlings but police superintendent Garry McCarthy has argued that the media have blown Chicago’s crime problem out of proportion saying- “We’re having a perception issue…And perhaps it’s my problem. Perhaps it’s my fault. I don’t know how to change this.”

Though there have been 228 murders in the city so far this year, over the past several years Chicago’s murder rate has fallen, but not as fast as the rates in other big cities.

According to McCarthy- “If you look at past decades, you see, as in the rest of the country, a significant decrease in shootings and homicides…But we haven’t moved as far down as cities like L.A. and New York.”

The violence is escalating in the Chi and with the summer right around the corner things will most likely heat up on the streets.