SOUTH LOOP — While acknowledging that Monday's shooting of five people along a safe-passage route in Uptown was "an early warning sign," Mayor Rahm Emanuel defended the citywide plan on Tuesday as a comprehensive strategy to get students to and from school.
"Every child is a safe-haven child, and my goal is that every street is a safe-passage street," Emanuel said Tuesday in a news conference at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the expanded Jones College Prep in the South Loop.
"When kids go to school, and come out of school, I want them thinking of their studies and not their safety," Emanuel added.
Safe passage was adopted as a comprehensive plan after Chicago Public Schools closed 50 schools this spring, requiring students to find "safe passage" to their newly assigned schools. Emanuel emphasized that the city's Police Department, Fire Department, Streets and Sanitation workers, Department of Transportation employees, local libraries and businesses had all been charged with supervising students traveling these designated routes to and from school.
He said public service calls along those routes will be given top priority — from sidewalk repairs to abandoned buildings being boarded up — and added that 600 traffic guards had been hired to be "fanned out" across the city, "one person per corner, per street" along the designated routes.
CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett said those 600 workers had been trained to "recognize and de-escalate" street violence. "Safe passage is not just the geographic passage where children walk. It's a comprehensive strategy," she said.
"Safe passage is during the time that children come to school and leave school," she added. "That doesn't minimize my sympathy for any child or any person who's hurt on a particular street. But safe passage is slightly different, and it's comprehensive."
Some critics have suggested Emanuel would have "blood on his hands" if any children were injured in street violence going from a closed school to a newly assigned school. Emanuel called Monday's shooting in Uptown "an early warning sign for us to be more on our toes" and said, "We will work on it every day to make sure that happens."