By Adam Schalke, Staff Reporter
The Chicago Police Department recorded its 500th homicide so far this year, making 2016 the deadliest year Chicago has experienced in two decades.
“I had a child asking me to pray for her, that she would not get shot going to school this year,” said Father Michael Pfleger, a long-serving priest and Chicago community activist, in an interview with CNN.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose political future is almost unanimously seen as being on uncertain ground after a lackluster and controversial tenure, has called for more police hires in response to the escalating violence in the city.
“We have more murders here than New York City and Los Angeles together, and we’re lacking a strategy or plan to say how are we going to turn this around,” said Emanuel.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Mayor Emanuel included increased funding for greater police training and hiring in his 2017 budget in response to declining number of active officers within the Chicago Police Department.
Emanuel’s police proposals come at a time when tensions between police officers and the communities that they serve are at a record high, particularly following the revelation of a dashcam video of a Chicago police officer shooting Laquan McDonald, an unarmed black teenager, an excessive number of times.
Many are critical of the mayor’s plan to hire more police, calling it a small, simplified solution to a much larger and complicated problem. In the same CNN interview, Father Pfleger warned that unless economic conditions in Chicago’s impoverished communities are improved, the violence will continue to spread.
Assistant professor of criminal justice Edward Green gave his take on the subject. Green stated that looking at the history of Chicago and the different police-community relationships amongst neighborhoods makes adding more police officers alone an insufficient solution.
“The relationship between the police officers and the community that they serve in Englewood is dramatically different than the relationship between police officers and the communities that they serve in Evanston or anywhere on the North Side,” Green said. “There’s this assumption that adding more police will solve most of the problems, and that’s really just not true.”
As far as being safe in the city is concerned, Bobby Epinger, a campus safety officer at Roosevelt, offered advice to students on how to stay safe.
“The most important thing you can do is travel in groups,” Epinger said. “People don’t seem to understand this, but crime and violence can happen anywhere, even in places the Loop. It’s so important to be aware of your surroundings and not to travel alone.”