CHICAGO – Police planned to increase patrols and put SWAT officers and specialized units on the streets over the weekend, a show of force aimed at deterring violence like the three dozen shootings that left nine people dead last weekend.
"Weather permitting, we will have our helicopter up," said police spokeswoman Monique Bond, who said Thursday night was relatively quiet, with only four shootings, none fatal.
Meanwhile, religious leaders said they had persuaded some churches to open their doors in the afternoons and evenings to protect people from gunfire.
"We just picked up about four more churches in Austin (a neighborhood on the city's West Side) that's going to open their doors as a safe haven," said Ira Acree, an activist and pastor of the Greater St. John Bible Church.
On Friday, Mayor Richard Daley took the unusual step of calling together more than two dozen officials from the police department, schools, social service agencies and religious groups for a City Hall summit on the violence. Afterward, he said it was just the start of a continuing dialogue about how to combat violent crime.
A fired-up Daley blasted the gun industry and called on parents and adults to do their part by intervening to help troubled youth and by working to keep others on the right path.
"I don't want people to wait for Mayor Daley to call a meeting. I want you to call a meeting in your home with your children and loved ones. I want you to go next door and talk to those children next door. I want the parents of the block to say 'This block will be free of violence,"' he said.
It is key for children to be occupied in after-school or other programs so they stay out of trouble, especially when they're not in a classroom, Daley said.
Before the meeting, some participants talked about possible solutions to end the violence.
The Rev. Bruce Wellems, pastor of Holy Cross Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on the city's South Side, suggested that adults need to get to know the young people in their neighborhoods.
"I think they have to step into the community and accompany these kids," he said.
And Tio Hardiman, executive director of CeaseFire, an anti-violence group, said young people need help finding alternatives to the streets.
"We need to go right to the corners and find out what some of these young people want to do, identify some employers that are willing to hire maybe 30 from this neighborhood, 30 from another neighborhood and try to get them hired somewhere so then we can get them off the corners."
But Daley said joblessness does not justify violence.
"When the killing is done, you still don't have a job, in fact, it greatly decreases the chances that you ever ... will have a job," he said.
Hardiman said he expected that violence would not be as bad this weekend because of the police presence and other steps by community groups, including his group's efforts to talk to gang members and mediate disputes. Last weekend, there were 36 shootings — at least 14 of which police believed were gang related.
But he said he's concerned about possible repercussions from a shooting at a McDonald's on Monday night that left one man dead and four others injured.
The area where the shooting took place is believe to be a stronghold of the Gangster Disciples street gang and Hardiman said he's concerned that someone may try to retaliate.