Compounding the tragedy was the sluggishness of law enforcement. As of Friday, only one arrest (in one of the nonfatal shootings) had been reported in connection with the weekend violence, although police said they had promising leads.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued earnest pleas for members of the public to come forward with any information that could lead to arrests.
Unfortunately the clearance rate of crimes in Chicago — cases in which a suspect is identified, regardless of whether the person is ever charged — fell to about 17 percent last year, according to data collected by the Tribune, partly because of the lack of cooperating witnesses.
Issues of trust get in the way. A U.S. Department of Justice report last year found long-simmering resentment of police, largely as a result of widespread civil rights violations particularly in African-American communities.
But I did find some good news from Gary Slutkin, the University of Illinois at Chicago epidemiologist who founded Cure Violence, formerly known as CeaseFire, an anti-violence program that has been adopted by more than 20 other cities, including New York and Los Angeles.
Last year I wrote about how Slutkin had predicted a rise in violence when the program lost its state funding amid prolonged political gridlock. Unfortunately, Slutkin turned out to be right. The only districts that didn’t experience a surge were two that found funding elsewhere.
But after funding was restored this year, Slutkin told me in a telephone interview, gun-related violence in the affected districts “dropped by 30 percent in the first six months of this year.”
Cure Violence certainly isn’t a one-stop solution to violence in Chicago or any other city. But its violence interrupters show how knowledgeable civilians can remove fuel from the boiling rage that leads to more violence.
Even so, Chicago’s program has produced less impressive results than its New York and Los Angeles operations, in part because of funding interruptions like the Springfield budget gridlock, Slutkin said. He hopes such political nightmares are behind us. So do I. Politics should serve the public interest, not overlook solutions that may be right under our noses.
Writes for Tribune Content Agency.