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Mayor Admits Gang Shift Forced Cops to Play Catch-Up, Alter Tactics

By Ted Cox | February 28, 2014 2:03pm
 Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Friday the city had to play catch-up to deal with splintering gangs and gun violence.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Friday the city had to play catch-up to deal with splintering gangs and gun violence.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

EDGEWATER — Mayor Rahm Emanuel admitted Friday that when he took office, "we didn't really have a comprehensive anti-gang strategy," but credited new tactics with reducing gun violence over the last year.

The mayor was amplifying remarks he made Thursday at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., that the city was "slow to react" to gang splits that triggered the spike in murders in 2012.

Emanuel said Friday he agreed with statements made by Police Supt. Garry McCarthy that "when we came here, we didn't really have a comprehensive anti-gang strategy." He added, "There was a change going on" with local gangs splintering, leading to more street violence.

"We needed to adapt to it," Emanuel said.

Emanuel was elected mayor in 2011 and almost immediately appointed McCarthy to head the Police Department.

Emanuel specifically lauded the "custom notification" initiative over the last six months in tandem with the "impact zones" the Chicago Police Department designated and attacked over the last year as leading to the reduction in gun violence and murders last year.

Custom notification, which has also been called "hug a thug," confronts those with ties to criminals because they're statistically more liable to commit crimes and attempts to dissuade them before crimes are committed.

"We now wanted to focus on the individuals who perpetrate the worst crimes," Emanuel said. "So there's a complement" to the geographical targeting of "impact zones" as well.

"That's not the strategy alone," he quickly added, pointing to afterschool and summer-job programs and mentoring initiatives such as "Becoming a Man." Emanuel said the idea was to target kids in danger of joining gangs "so they can take a more productive course in life rather than one that's more destructive."

Emanuel said those efforts were ongoing, adding, "We're always innovating, trying new ideas and adapting and changing so we can fight the gun violence and the gangs."