Whether one is talking about the horrendous crime and murder rates in Chicago, New York, LA, Washington, or anywhere else, it all comes down to the same problem for America’s big cities: the people who are supposed to have, need to have, and claim to have all the answers simply don’t have a clue.
Since Chicago is the city that is currently embracing the negative national headlines regarding murder rates, let’s take a look at what some of the real problems are there. The other crime-ridden cities can most likely relate in one way or another.
As the murder rate in Chicago has escalated this year in comparison to last year, one failed idea after another has come out of Chicago’s City Hall. The highly-publicized ideas have been released, one would assume, to let everyone know that the city is finally – though reluctantly – admitting that there is a problem. The city’s admission that there was a problem at all was very slow coming. Until recently, the people in command at City Hall fought the morning newspapers’ headlines by saying that things were really improving because the data says…
Please, stop! Give us a break!
The powers-that-be in the big cities are finally giving the appearance that they’re addressing the crime and murder problems – if for no other reason than for positive publicity’s sake.
In Chicago, it’s almost like two guys – namely Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his hand-chosen Superintendent of Police Garry McCarthy – sit around all day asking one another “who’s on first”? Then, they would only emerge from behind closed doors long enough to do a media-hyped press conference in which they basically say “all’s well ‘cause we have this new plan that just can’t fail!”
As the city of Chicago claims crime is down, the murder rate is climbing. And anybody who keeps their eyes open as they travel through the city can see the failed ideas being enacted one after another.
Now that hiring more cops and allegedly putting them on the street hasn’t worked, the latest brain-child thought coming out of City Hall has been to go after the businesses where “thugz” hang out because – City Hall misguidedly believes – going after them in the “hoods” just isn’t cutting it.
Wrong! Going after them in the hoods is exactly what needs to be done.
In Chicago, one has most assuredly seen three police vehicles trailing one another down main thoroughfares. Whatever the purpose of this vehicular parade, it’s not slowing the murder rate. There must be a reason why these caravans don’t separate and cruise down the side streets of the neighborhoods individually, but asking a bystander who’s seen it sure can’t find the logic behind it. After all, the “thugz” are probably down the side streets and deep in the neighborhoods – and not waiting out on the main thoroughfares of the city for three cop cars to cruise by in parade formation.
Then, the latest idea that Emanuel has come up with is confusing as well. First of all, the idea has been publicized. Yes, the powers-that-be have announced their plan of attack against the gang members and “thugz” throughout the city. Of course, that appears to be no different than a bank robber getting a call from a bank and being told, “Hey, guys. Stop by tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. and we’ll have the money ready for you.” What’s with announcing plans to the masses?
According to NBC Chicago, Emanuel has broadcast the idea that the city’s police are going to break up the groups of “thugz” in front of and inside various businesses in Chicago. He may have gotten this idea when Felony Franks closed on Western Avenue as the owner of the hotdog shack blamed a neighboring business for driving away good customers due to the human debris hanging out on the block.
So now, Chicago cops are going to break up the groups of people – “thugz” – hanging out in front of and inside businesses. And it’s not just a theory – it appears to be happening.
The plan is to go after businesses that sell illegal products or sell legal products illegally. Many argue that it isn’t the business that is breaking the law – it’s the customers they attract who are breaking the laws – away from the businesses and not at the business.
If Emanuel wants to harm businesses who are selling illegal products or selling cigarettes without the proper tax stamps, that’s fine. But to claim that this measure is going to reduce the incredible murder rate in the city is near-ludicrous. According to NBC, the Emanuel plan is to shut down businesses when the murders are rarely being committed in the businesses.
A business that I pass occasionally on the Southwest Side of the city is a business I don’t patronize anymore. Though the business was a convenient stop for soda pop and lottery tickets – which I don’t purchase anymore – I would pass the business up when I started seeing the same guy – or sometimes two guys – hanging out in front. I was tired of handing out change to these guys or having the feeling of guilt when I just ignored them.
These guys would say they needed change to get something to eat. From the foul scent on their breath, it was obvious they were having a liquid lunch on the days they were panhandling. These guys would collect change from people for hours, count their change every so often to break the boredom of standing there, and see if they had enough to buy their next bottle in the store – or perhaps their next drug in the hood.
When summer hits, this guy or two turns into as many as a dozen “thugz” hanging out in front of the store. It can only be assumed that many in the larger crowd are there for the same reason as the pioneers – to try to collect change, buy liquor there, or to go elsewhere to buy something else that makes them “feel good”.
It seems easy enough to figure out what most of them are going to buy with the money they’ve collected. When they have enough to make their purchase, they perk up and either head into the store to buy some liquor or they step lively into the neighborhoods – where the drug dealers are likely waiting for them and their money.
Anyway, back to Emanuel’s and McCarthy’s latest “who’s on first” maneuver. Do Emanuel and McCarthy really think that breaking up these bands of change-collecting guys and the businesses where they panhandle is going to reduce murders in the city? If so, they’re wrong so far.
The crimes, flash mobs, gunshots, and murders continue. As far as anyone knows, most of those shootings are not occurring at businesses along main thoroughfares where the new plan is targeting the criminals.
Though it’s great that the police clear the entryway to businesses, it’s not stopping the gunshots or murders happening throughout the city. A logical guess is that public intoxication would be the most serious crime the police could have charged any of these misguided souls with at the liquor stores.
That’s not going to end the murders in Chicago or any other crime-ridden city in the nation.
Instead of clearing these guys away from the front of the businesses with the intent of decreasing crime, what the cops should be instructed to do is to watch them. If watching them doesn’t do any good, all they needed to do is watch them closer. Watch where these guys go with their change, what they’re purchasing, and – most importantly – who they’re purchasing it from. Then, make the move to disband the individuals there – at the point of illegal sale and not at the point of non-criminal activity in front of or inside the businesses. By attacking the small businesses, it appears that they are being made the fall guy while – in reality – the crimes and murders are likely happening blocks away.
About Scott Paulson
Scott Paulson writes political commentary for Examiner.com and teaches English at a community college in the Chicago area. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.