WATCH LIVE: Chicago City Council meeting

Mayoral candidates say one of their top priorities is making Chicago safer

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CHICAGO — The next mayor will be sworn in as the weather warms up and police prepare to respond to summer violence in Chicago. It is perhaps the biggest issue the new mayor will face.

At the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle said their top priority is making Chicago safer.

“In the last seven years, we’ve had over 23,000 people shot in this city. That is an unacceptable number,” Lightfoot said.

“Everybody has the right to feel safe in their home and in their communities,” Preckwinkle said.

Lightfoot, former head of the Police Board, wants to label violence a public health crisis. She’s also calling for greater investment in neighborhoods, the creation of a mayor’s Office for Public Safety, and she wants to hire and train new detectives.

“No one is going to trust in this very dangerous environment some white guy — which is mostly what they are — showing up in white shirt and a tie and fronting them frankly in front of everyone in the neighborhood and say 'Hey, by the way, did you see something, will you tell me about it?' People are afraid to put themselves at risk in that kind of environment,” Lightfoot said.

Preckwinkle, Cook County Board President, is also proposing labeling violence a public health crisis. Plus, she’s calling for a major investment in community policing. More money for programs to support at-risk youth and police accountability. Specially, she cited Chicago’s dismal murder clearance rate.

“For our most serious crimes, we’re not doing a very good job bringing the guilty to justice, and of course, that has a devastating ripple effect in the communities because if you know that the person who killed your brother, or your uncle or your dad, or your neighbor is unlikely to be brought to justice, the temptation is to seek revenge or retaliation yourself,” Preckwinkle said.

The forum took place as City Council passed $95 million for a new police and fire training academy.

On the campaign trail, both candidates have repeatedly said they opposed the new academy. However, on Wednesday, they both said they supported a new training facility.

“I’m not opposed to a new training facility. I just question whether or not we need to spend $95 million on a brand new faculty,” Preckwinkle said.

“We do need a new academy. We also have to have the flexibility to bring people to other parts of the city and not have just one centralized location,” Lightfoot said.

On Wednesday night, the candidates will appear at a Chicago Sun-Times/AARP community forum.

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