It’s a curious, unpleasant paradox: Even as people stay at home more than ever, given there aren’t many places to go and a deadly virus you might catch when you get there, violent crime is spiking in major cities.
In Chicago, not already known for Singapore-like crime rates, WGN-TV reported murders in June were up 34 percent from last year and shootings were up 45 percent. The Chicago Tribune reported 295 homicides through June 21, up from 235 from 2019. Shooting incidents through June 21 in the city: 1,250. In 2019: 902.
Chicago is hardly alone in experiencing this trend, either, making this pretty dire stuff in the midst of a pandemic, particularly given police resources stretched by mass demonstrations (and the concomitant riots).
Normally, given this sort of situation, federal intervention might be welcomed.
But these cities are universally controlled by Democrats and the president is you-know-who, so guess where we are.
I always find New York Times headlines in situations like this helpful, if just because they can tell me how something’s being framed. In the case we’ll be dealing with here: “Painting Bleak Portrait of Urban Crime, Trump Sends More Agents to Chicago and Other Cities.”
Say what you will about his decision to send hundreds of federal agents into the Windy City, I’m curious what kind of portrait Trump was supposed to paint given those numbers. Should he have used the relentlessly upbeat language of upper-middle management? (“I see a very positive operational opportunity here to keep people from being non-alived.”)
Regardless, this seems to be the take: He’s being overly grim about a situation that’s … well, incredibly grim.
Anyhow, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was indignant at the plan the day before it was announced — apparently fearful of a situation like the one in Portland, Oregon, where federal agents were sent to quell civil unrest that’s rocked the city for weeks on end.
“Under no circumstances will I allow Donald Trump’s troops to come to Chicago and terrorize our residents,” Lightfoot tweeted Tuesday.
Under no circumstances will I allow Donald Trump’s troops to come to Chicago and terrorize our residents.
— Mayor Lori Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) July 21, 2020
Unfortunately, Chicago’s residents were being terrorized in other ways. On Tuesday, on the city’s South Side, 15 people were shot outside a funeral home in what the Chicago Sun-Times called “the largest number of victims in a single Chicago shooting in recent memory.”
Ten of those shot were women, and the victims ranged from 21 to 65 years old.
Chicago Police First Deputy Superintendent Eric Carter said a vehicle was speeding along a city street when it began “firing at attendees of a funeral.”
The car soon crashed and the occupants scattered, but police were able to take a “person of interest” into custody. None of those shot has died thus far.
It’s unclear whether the shooting was gang-related. However, the funeral was for 31-year-old Donnie Weathersby, who WLS-TV reported had been killed in a gang-related shooting the week before.
“This is a mourning morning, another day when we start with despair,” Lightfoot said Wednesday.
“What makes this incident especially heinous, is that those shooters took advantage of families and friends who were gathered to mourn the death of a young man who himself had lost his life just the week before.”
As for the police, one activist says she tipped them off to the possibility of violence at the funeral.
“I saw something, I said something,” Tamar Manasseh of Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings told WLS. “I put myself at risk. I put my family at risk, saying something, and the police didn’t act.”
The police say they did all they could.
“We had two police squad cars there and a full [tactical] team in the area. We treat all of our funerals that have any gang rivalry or gang connections in similar ways,” Chicago Police Department Superintendent David Brown said.
A few hours later, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, a 3-year-old girl was shot in the head after her family got in an altercation at a gas station, according to Fox News. The girl is expected to survive.
I don’t want this to construed as unalloyed support for the president’s decision to send federal agents into American cities. I understand the argument that in these extraordinary times, extraordinary measures need to be taken to ameliorate a crisis of unseen proportions. I’d also like to point out that this sets a precedent — one that we might not be so keen on if it were employed by a Democrat on a Republican-run jurisdiction. Federal intervention should be our last resort, not another tool in the toolbox.
That said, when it comes to terrorizing the residents of Chicago, Chicagoans are doing a good enough job of this. When it comes to painting a bleak picture of urban crime, the president needn’t lift a brush. The New York Times has already reported on the alarming statistics we’re seeing, both in New York and nationally. Is its point that Trump is inventing this out of whole cloth?
Lightfoot knows her city already had a violence problem and that shootings were up nearly 50 percent year-over-year in June. Are we to assume she believes the real threat is the president and the potential presence of a few hundred federal agents? Is she somehow implying, absent any evidence to that effect, that city leaders have a strategy and the resources to deal with this problem on their own?
At least for the moment, there’s some level of agreement between the White House and Chicago City Hall. On Wednesday evening, the Sun-Times reported, the president talked with Lightfoot and reached an agreement by which the federal agents would fit into existing law enforcement operations in the city.
The president “reached out to Mayor Lightfoot this evening to confirm that he plans to send federal resources to Chicago to supplement ongoing federal investigations pertaining to violent crime. The conversation was brief and straightforward,” a statement from City Hall read.
“Mayor Lightfoot maintains that all resources will be investigatory in nature and be coordinated through the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“The Mayor has made clear that if there is any deviation from what has been announced, we will pursue all available legal options to protect Chicagoans.”
“This is not patrol. This is not against civil unrest,” U.S. Attorney John Lausch said of the intervention. “This is working with the Chicago Police Department to do what we can to reduce the staggering violent crime we’re facing right now.”
One hopes they’re successful. Chicago has seen all the terror it can take. That said, if there’s more of it, it won’t be coming from “Donald Trump’s troops.”
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