CHICAGO — Bond, illegal guns, lack of economic investment. For weeks, city and county officials have gone back and forth about the causes and solutions to gun violence. This week, the topic was gun-related criminal charges.
As he does every Friday, Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina on the South Side will lead a peace walk in hopes of curbing violence. The march for some is a regular part of summer in Chicago.
“We go to different parts of the community here, to a particular place we know there’s been some tension,” he said. “(We) go there to tell people he let’s not solve issues by guns.”
Last weekend, bullets flew at an alarming pace. 55 people were shot, seven of them fatally. It was the most violent weekend so far this year.
City and county officials are trying to stem the tide but there is finger-pointing.
This week, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli faced off over how the judicial system treats defendants accused of gun crimes.
Johnson, under attack by Campanelli for CPD’s Gun Offender Dashboard, penned a fiery letter that read, in part:
I know personally and professionally the fear, suffering and pain that gun offenders who carry firearms with impunity can bring to communities across Chicago.
And on Monday, introducing the Gun Offender Dashboard, Johnson said, “This is just merely an attempt to be transparent with everything we have going on in the judicial system.”
Campanelli unloaded on Johnson and said the website skews facts and violates privacy.
“He has now put out all these people’s names on a dashboard who have not been convicted of the offense they are charged with. … He needs to look within. … Stop writing false police reports. Stop harassing people in certain neighborhoods and arresting whoever you feel like because they’re black and brown.”
In the fight, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she sides with Johnson.
“The people who are the shooters are the people who live in neighborhoods,” she said. “When they are picked up from a gun arrest and the community breathes a sigh of relief and they see those people right back on the streets within 24 or 48 hours, what message does that send?
While local leaders debate the judicial system, community leaders like Pfleger warn they’re missing the point.
“Locking everybody up is not the solution,” Pfleger said. “I think we need to be as opposed and as compulsive about taking care of these communities, getting good schools, getting economic development, getting jobs, getting positive alternatives, prevention and locking up those who should be locked up, repeat offenders.”
Community leaders want to see a comprehensive approach. The various stakeholders, the mayor’s team, prosecutors, the Chief Judge and police are set to come together in the coming weeks for a crime summit.