CHICAGO – After an especially bloody weekend in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city's police commanders said Tuesday they have a new plan for combating street violence that includes going after liquor and convenience stores used by gang members as hangouts.
Emanuel, acknowledging the city's "unique gang problem," said the plan would merge the efforts of police and other agencies into a single front, focusing on businesses he called a "cancer" in troubled neighborhoods for their links to gang activity and other crime.
"Whether you are a problem business, a violent street corner, or a known drug market, we will go after you," Emanuel said, following a four-day holiday weekend that saw more than 40 shootings and 10 homicides.
It won't be an easy fight. Police blame much of the violence on the city's more than 70 active gangs and their tens of thousands of members. Homicides — nearly all of them shootings — spiked by 60 percent during the first three months of this year to 120, despite an increase in police resources in some of the city's most dangerous neighborhoods.
Another shooting early Tuesday killed a 14-year-old boy who was eating pizza with his sister in the Uptown neighborhood, in northern Chicago. A man fired shots into the pizzeria from the sidewalk, striking the teen in the head.
Among those killed during the Memorial Day holiday weekend was a 33-year-old man who was shot near a holiday party late Monday in the South Shore neighborhood, in southern Chicago. Police said neighbors reported hearing a loud argument just before shots were fired and partygoers ran from the scene.
Last year, four people were killed during the Memorial Day weekend — but bad storms that year forced many people to stay home. This year the city experienced record temperatures that peaked in the mid-90s.
Speaking at a press conference Tuesday alongside Emanuel, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy asked for patience.
"What it is, is a new solution that we're applying to it. And it's not going to happen overnight. It's a process that we have to move forward with," McCarthy said.
He said some of the new efforts are paying off, including so-called "gang audits," which involve special units sharing intelligence on gangs with beat officers. McCarthy said shootings have decreased 7 percent since that program began in March.
Since April, four problem liquor stores have been shut down and another 15 businesses have been referred for disciplinary action, Emanuel's office said. A total of 30 businesses are a watch list.