CITY HALL — President Donald Trump, instead of sending "the feds" as he threatened Tuesday night on Twitter, should provide federal assistance to address the root causes of violence in Chicago, city officials said.
After surging in 2016, violence in Chicago has shown no sign of slowing down in the first weeks of 2017, with 40 people killed in the first 22 days of January.
If Chicago doesn't fix the horrible "carnage" going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 25, 2017
Mayor Rahm Emanuel Wednesday welcomed more help from the federal government to fight crime — but ruled out National Guard troops patrolling Chicago's streets.
"Straight up" I'm against it, Emanuel said.
Deploying troops in Chicago would be "antithetical" to the Chicago Police Department's renewed focus on community policing, Emanuel said.
That push has been endorsed by federal officials as a way to end the Chicago Police Department's routine use of excessive force against minorities in violation of the Constitution.
Several aldermen said they were unsure what Trump meant when he said he might "send in the feds" — but none said sending armed troops to the south and west sides of Chicago was a good idea.
"What does it even mean?" 9th Ward Ald. Anthony Beale asked. "It is so vague."
But Beale said he would welcome dollars for education, infrastructure and additional police officers.
Beale said it was "very frustrating" to see Chicago held up as the poster child for urban violence, especially when its per-capita murder rate is much lower than other cities, including New Orleans.
That was echoed by Cardinal Blase Cupich, who said Chicago would welcome assistance that address the "lack of opportunity" that prompts many Chicagoans to join gangs.
"We need help that appreciates the complexity of violence," Cupich said. "We have good police. This isn't just a law enforcement issue."
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer Wednesday said there is no concrete plan for the federal government to act to curb Chicago's violence. However, the president is tired of seeing people "shot down" on the city's street, he said.
Emanuel rejected Spicer's suggestion that he had not asked federal officials for help, noting that he met with Vice President Mike Pence just before Trump took office.
"I'm not a shy person," Emanuel said.
It would be up to Gov. Bruce Rauner to assign the National Guard to patrol Chicago. In a radio interview Wednesday morning on WGN, he said it would not be "the right thing" for the city. Experts agreed, saying sending in the military would be costly and ineffective.
Rauner's spokeswoman did not respond to additional questions about the president's tweet.
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, a Democrat and frequent critic of Trump, accused the president of "beating up" Chicago because it's popular to do so among his rural and suburban supporters.
"Chicago’s murder epidemic is more serious than a late night twitter threat from the new Tweeter-in-Chief," Gutiérrez said.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin ruled out imposing military rule in Chicago as a response to gun violence.
Martial law isn't an answer to Chicago gun violence—stopping flow of guns into dangerous hands & supporting local public safety efforts are— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) January 25, 2017
It would violate the Constitution to assign federal troops to patrol on American soil.
However, 35th Ward Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa said he was not confused about the meaning of Trump's tweet.
"It didn't mean a flood of resources," Rosa said. "We knew what he meant. He meant locking up more black and brown folks."
U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley said Trump's tweet was not only "reckless and misguided, but also a gross overreach of federal power."
"While I agree that gun violence, both in Chicago and across this country, is a national tragedy that requires immediate and substantial action, a threat to institute martial law is not the answer," Quigley said in a statement.
During an interview on WTTW-Channel 11 that aired about an hour before Trump's tweet, Emanuel said stronger gun control laws and funds to hire more police officers would help reduce violence in Chicago.
The federal government should also fund after-school and summer jobs programs, Emanuel said.
The federal government should invest "in neighborhoods that are hard hit by poverty and become a breeding ground for violence," Emanuel said.
Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the department "is more than willing to work with the federal government to build on our partnerships with the [U.S. Justice Department] FBI, [Drug Enforcement Agency,] and [the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] and boost federal prosecution rates for gun crimes in Chicago."
On Monday, Emanuel urged Trump to stop debating the size of the crowd at his inauguration and focus on issues that matter.