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CHICAGO (CBS) — Facing a setback in efforts to reduce gun violence and make Chicago a safer place to live, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday that police are focusing on long-term strategies to target street gangs.
As CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, although overall crime is down 10 percent compared to this time last year, murders are up 60 percent during the first three months of the year.
There have been 120 murders in Chicago through the end of March this year, compared to 75 during the same time last year.
Shootings are also up significantly: 37 percent over 2011.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports
Emanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy weren’t pleased with those figures, but they weren’t admitting defeat, either.
They pointed out the problem – mainly street gangs – is unique to Chicago, and it calls for a long-term strategy that is still being developed and implemented, piece-by-piece.
“I am not happy at all with the statistics,” Emanuel said. “Beyond the statistics are the human tragedies that occur, and the terror in the city.”
“We have our challenges as it relates to gangs. I’ve said that repeatedly,” he added. “We are putting in place a set of policies and enforcement strategies to deal with the gang bangers, so the people of this city know that those streets do not belong to gang bangers, they belong to the kids and the law-abiding citizens of our city.”
Asked if the spike in homicides and shootings shows their crime strategies are failing, McCarthy urged reporters to visit Humboldt Park, where police made a show of force on North Spaulding Avenue.
One volunteer with the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS), the city’s community policing program, said she’d like to see the community teeming with police officers every day.
“We don’t see them that often here,” Maggie Martinez said. “I wish we did have that; walking like that. This is something that we need.”
Police called Thursday’s show of force the aftermath of an offensive, which took down 14 alleged Latin King gang members earlier this week. Humboldt Park residents said, in their neighborhood, police are winning.
“They’ve eliminated a lot of these Latin Kings, they’ve arrested them,” Frank Colon said.
But as McCarthy admitted, it’s not that way everywhere in Chicago; not yet.
“It’s obviously not working. The fact is, we want zero violence. We want no murders, we want no shootings, so obviously it’s not working,” McCarthy said. “That’s why we’re doing something different.”
Among the new “radical” strategies that McCarthy said police have implemented are: gang audits, targeting businesses that are gang hotspots, seeking new state laws, and taking back streets like Spaulding Avenue.
“We’re doing something totally different, and radical, that’s gonna far outpace anything that anybody else in this country is doing, as far as our gang violence reduction strategy,” McCarthy said. “It didn’t get like this overnight, it took a long time for this city to get here, and the fact is we can’t fix it overnight. So, as we close these gaps, you’re going to see the improvements.”
A tougher question, McCarthy admitted, is determining when that strategy will bear fruit, show results, and stop the killing. He said he’s convinced it will work, eventually; but he also knows he’s working for a man who is not known for patience.