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Rahm Emanuel Out of Excuses for Chicago’s Murder Rate

The mayor of Chicago has offered some fairly lame excuses for the city’s increasing murder rate, and he avoids comparing Chicago to  New York or other large cities where the murder rate is far lower. Naturally, he has thrown out the old standbys for the levels of violence -- guns and gangs. Chicago certainly has both, and the gangs are everywhere, including on the north side “Eden." One explanation offered for the increasing murder rate has been that the gangs have splintered and are fighting more over turf boundaries. But there may be other explanations as well for the soaring gang violence, including the police chief’s abandonment of a strategy that proved very successful in New York and -- to a lesser extent -- in Chicago in recent years: flooding a zone with more police if violent crime is rising rapidly in that area.

As for guns, Chicago has tough gun laws. One could make an argument that the absence of fathers in much of the South and West side of the city is more statistically related to the rate of violent crime in these communities than the number of guns is.

Was there a surge in the number of guns between 2011 and 2012 in the hardest-hit communities of the city? No one in the mayor’s office has provided evidence of that.

Other cities have had epidemics of gang violence, such as Los Angeles -- which once had as high a murder rate as Chicago, but which is now only about half as high. That city seems to have tamed the beast somewhat.

When you are the mayor, your first job is public safety. If people think Chicago is too unsafe to live or to visit, then the mayor’s other initiatives will also fail. I do not pretend to have the answers, but some cities seem to be doing a much better job at public safety than Chicago (stricter sentencing laws seem to be working in California cities), and Chicago may be doing some things that contribute to its gang culture.

Maybe the mayor, never known for his humility, can try to learn from others.