AUSTIN — Like nearly all city parks this summer, La Follette Park will host a movie screening and a number of other events as part of the city's "Night Out in the Parks" program.
Also like some other parks, particularly on the South and West sides, La Follette, 1333 N. Laramie Ave., is situated in an area crippled by gang activity and shootings.
One person died and five others were wounded in six total shootings within a half mile of the Austin park since January, according to data compiled by DNAinfo Chicago. Shootings throughout the city have escalated dramatically this year.
So, does Mayor Rahm Emanuel think Austin residents will show out in droves on July 14, when La Follette Park hosts a screening of "Despicable Me 2?"
Yes, Emanuel said at an event promoting the "Night Out in the Parks" program in La Follette Park. For one, he said the parks events are well staffed by area officers.
In fact, Emanuel said a robust showing at the movie and other event nights in neighborhoods such as Austin will help show the criminals that the parks are not to be considered gangland.
"This is a perfect way to reclaim your park," Emanuel said after the event Tuesday. "When people are together at an event like this, there is no room for gangbangers."
Emanuel's comments come as the city is working to reduce spiking gun violence that historically peaks in summer months.
The city has already asked officers to volunteer for overtime shifts over Memorial Day weekend, which is known as a particularly bloody weekend in Chicago. At the same time, the city is being criticized for staging a detectives test on a May Saturday when 25 were shot.
Emanuel said it's when neighbors retreat to behind their closed doors that public space like parks gets occupied by gang members.
The mayor is also asking for neighbors' help in curbing the summertime violence. He said showings of force, such as at the movie nights or even upcoming Shakespeare in the Parks events, help demonstrate the community's investment in making it a safe one.
Emanuel's office on Friday is staging its third annual "Summer of Faith and Action" program that seeks to reclaim neighborhoods from violent forces. He said there will be 130 separated events Friday, where groups will stand on various street corners and spread a message of peace.
"This is what's happening all throughout the city," Emanuel said.
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