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Cappleman Recalls Chat With Uptown Gang Members, Says They Need Help, Too

 Ald. James Cappleman (46th), said gang members often feel that they have no other options than a life of crime.
Ald. James Cappleman (46th), said gang members often feel that they have no other options than a life of crime.
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DNAinfo/Adeshina Emmanuel and Getty Images/Scott Olson

UPTOWN — Weighing in on a debate at City Hall about harsher sentences for convicted shooters, Ald. James Cappleman (46th) shared an insightful conversation he said he had with Conservative Vice Lord street gang members in Uptown.

The North Side alderman said that, on Tuesday, he personally responded to an Uptown store owner's complaint about 12 street gang members loitering in front of her store, and "went to speak with these CVLs against the advice of" his husband Richard Thale, "who doesn't like it that I talked to them."

But when Cappleman spoke with gang members, he said they had grievances of their own to air.

"They all had the same complaint: They can't get jobs," Cappleman said.

Cappleman made the comments at City Hall Wednesday during a discussion among officials about mandatory minimum sentencing for people convicted on gun charges, a measure supported by Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.

McCarthy wants a three-year mandatory minimum sentence for illegal gun possession and truth-in-sentencing for gun crimes in Illinois, meaning that offenders would have to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence.

Cappleman emphasized at City Hall that harsher sentencing alone won't solve the cycle of crime in a person's life.

Cappleman said that officials, "need to do our part when people do serve time in the Illinois Department of Corrections," to try to help offenders "get back on their feet rather than setting them up to fail over and over again."

Making his point, Cappleman told a story of another text message he received, this one on Aug. 31 — the day Kelsky Patterson, 20, allegedly shot a 14-year-old boy twice in the head at the southeast corner of Wilson Avenue and Broadway. Cappleman said he went to the scene of the shooting and saw a "14-year-old boy shot in the head with an assault rifle."

Cappleman noted that the alleged shooter "had a tattoo of an AK-47 on his forehead," and concluded: "I venture to say the shooter was lost a long time ago."

The alderman, however, said that what happened wasn't just Patterson's fault.

Institutionalized racism is also to blame for whatever circumstances in his life led to him being "lost a long time ago," Cappleman said.

"It is the fault of a lot of different things when these men and women shoot," Cappleman said.

The alderman said gun offenders "do need to serve their time," but that "I am also in agreement with others that we need to make sure that when people are sent to prison that we really do our part in making sure that they get the help they need."

The Council passed a resolution asking state lawmakers to support tougher gun laws, but did not address the mandatory minimum sentencing plan directly.