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Parents' Gang Ties Endanger Their Kids, Top Cop Says

By  Erica Demarest and Emily Morris | July 1, 2013 9:55am | Updated on July 1, 2013 4:14pm

 Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy speaks at a news conference Monday at the Ogden District police station.
Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy speaks at a news conference Monday at the Ogden District police station.
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DNAinfo/Erica Demarest

NORTH LAWNDALE — Better parenting could have prevented several recent shootings that injured children, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Monday.

“I always thought when we talk about better parenting, we were talking about teaching our children right from wrong,” the city's top cop said. “But I’m starting to realize, in many cases, it means: Don’t put your children in harm’s way.”

Speaking at the Ogden District police station, 3315 W. Ogden Ave., McCarthy highlighted the Back of the Yards shooting that claimed a 5-year-old boy’s life Friday.

The boy, Sterling Sims, and his mother Chervon Brown, 31, were shot to death in their home sometime after midnight. Sims’ 11-year-old brother survived the shooting, and detectives believe the incident was narcotics-related, McCarthy said.

“When you have a 5-year-old and an 11-year-old, and you put them in an environment where an apartment is targeted because there’s large stashes of cash and narcotics, what’s the result?” the superintendent asked.

“I really don’t want to cast aspersions on people, but the incident with the 5-year-old and the mom could have been avoided,” McCarthy said. “It could have been avoided.”

McCarthy pushed for stricter gun laws on Monday, saying a mandatory penalty of three years incarceration on gun charges could help abate shootings. He also said parents need to be more mindful of where they take their children.

“We’ve got example after example,” the superintendent said. “Jonylah Watkins was about the highest profile incident."

Watkins, a 6-month-old, was shot and killed in March when her father was changing the child's diaper in the 5600 block of S. Maryland Ave. Her father, Jonathan, who admitted he was an ex-gang member, was targeted for the shooting after he allegedly stole a video game from the man charged in the killing.

"Taking a 6-month-old child to the scene — I mean, [her father] is going to live with that for the rest of his life," McCarthy said.

“Or the 9-year-old whose mom was driving through rival gang territory with a gangbanger boyfriend in the front seat,” McCarthy continued, referencing the June 5 incident that injured Tykeece Hilliard.

The boyfriend “becomes a target of gunfire, and the 9-year-old gets hit in the back seat,” McCarthy said.

He also referenced a shooting incident that injured a 1-year-old boy Sunday in a park in West Englewood, saying that the owner of a vehicle the mother and child were sitting in "may, in fact, be a ranking gangbanger."

"You know, these things generally don't happen in vacuums," said McCarthy. Despite recent high-profile shootings, McCarthy said homicide, shooting and overall crime rates are down across the city.

Six months into 2013, police have recorded 184 murders. That's 76 fewer than police saw in the first half of 2012 — or about a 29 percent drop. That number also marks fewer murders recorded through the first half of 2013 than any year since 1965, police said.

Compared with the same six-month period in 2012, Chicago saw 274 fewer shootings this year, a 25 percent drop, police said.

At the end of 2012, the city drew national attention when it counted more than 500 people killed in homicides.

McCarthy attributed the 2013 rates to recent police tactics and community involvement.

"It's progress, and not victory, because one shooting or murder is unacceptable," McCarthy said. "While to date we've had fewer shootings than in recent years and fewer murders than any year since 1965, there's more work to be done, and we won't rest until everyone in Chicago enjoys the same sense of safety.”

Tactics have included "Operation Impact," where young officers work on foot patrols in high-crime areas of the city. At least 200 police have worked overtime during nightly patrols, police said.

Overall, crime in Chicago for the first half of 2013 was also down 14 percent from 2012 and down 23 percent from 2011, police said.