Southwest Chicago Post
Imagine if the leaders of three Southwest Side crime-fighting groups: the Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch, Clearing Night Force and Archer Heights Neighborhood Watch, got together and held a press conference.
At the press conference, they announce that "...crime on the Southwest Side is no longer a criminal justice matter. Rather, it's a public health issue; like, say, the measles or salmonella or norovirus."
"You see," they say, "criminals aren't criminals. Gangbangers aren't gangbangers. Punks aren't punks. They're just misunderstood fellows with an illness. And we have a cure."
Their "cure" is a demand that the City of Chicago fork over a million dollars---taxpayer dollars---for a year, so they could conduct crime prevention work on the Southwest Side. They say they'll be back next year to demand another million-dollar slice of the taxpayer pie---and probably a lot more.
If they don't get their million dollars, they warn, all hell may break loose on our local streets.
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Of course, such a press conference would never happen.
The leaders of our local crime fighting organizations are good and honorable men and women---among the very best people on the Southwest Side. They work as unpaid volunteers---quietly, effectively, without complaint or boastfulness---simply because they believe in building safer and better neighborhoods for all.
And of course, in this part of Chicago, anyone who claimed that crime is an "illness" and then demanded a million dollars from the city would be branded a fraud at best, an extortionist at worst---and then run out of the neighborhood.
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So why is it, then, that the City of Chicago is now forking over a million dollars---our tax dollars---to the CeaseFire group to fight crime in two police districts---one on the South Side and one on the West Side?
There are any number of theories. The most popular on the Southwest Side seems to be this: the Emanuel Administration, entirely frustrated by ongoing violence in the city and increasingly embarassed by mounting national "What's Wrong With Chicago?" headlines, is so desperate for solutions, it's willing to try just about anything, even the so-called public health approach to violence prevention---despite its own past skepticism about such methods and about the CeaseFire organization---which, among other things, hires ex-felons and ex-gangbangers to mediate conflicts between gangs. (Cops on the street---not the CPD brass at scripted press conferences---sometimes claim that CeaseFire's ex-gangbangers aren't exactly "ex"---and that the million dollar grant is nothing more than the Emanuel Administration indirectly but essentially paying criminals not to commit crime---which, if true, would be an extreme and disgraceful example of cowardice.)
Chicago's CeaseFire organization, long the darling of liberals who say that the conservative "get tough on crime" approach has not only not reduced crime but created a massive, expensive, oppressive, racist prison industry, was founded in 2000 by Dr. Gary Slutkin, an infectious disease physician who insists that society should treat violence the same way it treats AIDS or tuberculosis or syphilis.
|Ameena Matthews of CeaseFire.|
CeaseFire used to be funded by more than $6 million in state tax dollars; but in 2007 those resources were eliminated by the Blagojevich Administration. Shamefully, in my opinion, CeaseFire's reps and community supporters back then made their share of public predictions (or were they threats?) that if their government millions were eliminated, crime would increase and people would die.
So here we go again, this time in 2012.
Rest assured, Mayor Emanuel knows all this. He is as smart and swift a politician as ever you'll see in your lifetime. And like most Chicagoans, he certainly has his doubts about the "crime as measles" concept in general; and about the reliability of the CeaseFire organization in particular.
Emanuel's doubt was there for all to see at the city press conference to announce the million-dollar giveaway---insofar as neither he nor CPD Superintendent Garry McCarthy was there. These absences don't happen by accident, folks.
His doubt is also evident in the watered-down, sugar-coated Health Department press release, which does not mention the million dollars at all. Rest assured, that omission was no accident.
All that aside, here's my beef---and it's the same complaint that thousands of other Southwest Siders have voiced in recent days:
In 2012, a year when Mayor Emanuel and his political surrogates basically say there's not enough money to pay "greedy" cops, firefighters, 911 dispatchers, teachers, mental health clinical therapists, Streets and San laborers and other city workers----a million dollars is magically found to toss at CeaseFire.
Perhaps what we on the Southwest Side should be asking the Mayor is, where's our million dollars?
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