A plan for Trump’s feds in Chicago
Kanari Gentry-Bowers, 12, from left, Lavontay White Jr., 2, and Takiya Holmes, 11, died after being shot in separate attacks in Chicago.
Have you forgotten the names of the three children—two girls and a toddler boy—killed in the Chicago gang wars just a few days ago?
Don’t worry, it’s only February. There will be other children for us to mourn.
And we’ll go through the same pathetic public rituals, all rhetoric and emotion, much of it hollow. And some will tell you that you don’t feel enough, that you don’t care enough about poor murdered African-American children.
But people do care. They just don’t know what to do.
Others put on partisan hats and foolishly worry that President Donald Trump—who has been critical of City Hall’s response to Chicago violence—may win some political advantage by sending in "the feds."
If Trump truly wants to learn about Chicago’s river of violence and a possible, if controversial, way to stop the slaughter, he should talk to former longtime Cook County and federal prosecutor Bob Milan and his friend former deputy U.S. Marshal Jim Smith.
They’re not big on rhetoric. But they understand street crime. And they have an idea to stop the gang wars:
Federalize the National Guard.
Close off easy access and exits to the most violent neighborhoods, leaving the guard at a limited number of checkpoints from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. to cut down drive-by shootings.
And flood the zones with local police and federal law enforcement officers.
The bad guys involved in drive-by shootings would have nowhere to run. And with law enforcement flooding a zone, the gangs wouldn’t be making any money from drug sales.
Milan talked of his plan in a lengthy interview on my weekly podcast, "The Chicago Way," on WGN.
"It doesn’t mean militarizing our city or tanks going down State Street, Milan said. "It’s called to protect the law-abiding citizens of the West and South sides from the gang shootings, and to treat people, law-abiding citizens, with respect, make sure they’re protected, and let the gang members know that if they draw a gun in those areas, they’re either going to be arrested on sight or be met with deadly force. This has to stop."
Sound draconian? Yes. But what does more than 4,000 shootings and more than 700 homicides last year sound like? So far this year, it’s been even more violent.
And saturating high-crime areas actually works.
Targeting gangs isn’t a cure-all for the deep-seated problems of poverty, sub-par public education and chronic unemployment. But these won’t be solved before the summer.
And I’ve been asking for real solutions to save lives.
One is a state law shepherded by State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, that would put heat on judges trying cases of repeat gun offenders. I call it the Judicial Accountability Act.
Milan’s idea is another possibility.
Consider the greater Englewood community, where shootings happen almost every day and people wait for bullets to fly through their windows. So from, say, State Street on the east to Western Avenue on the west, from 55th Street on the north to 79th Street on the south, there are about 150 entrances and exits, according to a review by Milan.
Under his plan, concrete blocks would be brought in to block roughly half of the exits, and the others would be controlled by National Guard, with law enforcement cameras at those spots. Inside the perimeter, the streets would be saturated with city and state police, the Cook County Sheriff’s police and federal law enforcement.
"…And then you can patrol it. There will be no more drive-by shootings in those areas while that takes place because they can’t get away. There won’t be a single open-air drug market in those areas. And guess what? The shootings will plummet."
The same could be done with the Austin neighborhood on the West Side, and other hot spots.
But won’t neighborhood residents, after seeing the guard, feel as if they’ve lost?
"We have lost," he said. "And that’s the problem. If I didn’t think we did, I wouldn’t be calling for this. This is what I think the people would … feel. Law-abiding citizens. They’d be like, ‘We can sit on our porches at nighttime and not get killed. Our kids can go to the park and play basketball and not get shot. 12-year-old girls, 11-year-old girls, 2-year-old boys aren’t going to get killed anymore.’ That’s how I think they’ll take it.
"The people that will be irate about this are the gangbangers, because the party’s over. There’s no way for them to make money in those neighborhoods, there’s no way for them to get away with drive-bys. The party’s over."
It wouldn’t be cheap. Milan figures we’d need 8,000 or so National Guard for an eight-month period through this coming summer. You’d need extra feds. It would cost millions upon millions of dollars.
But what of spending millions of dollars for a basketball arena at McCormick Place that Chicago doesn’t need? Or millions more for extra tree trimming, when children are being gunned down?
Residents of white, middle-class city neighborhoods or the suburbs wouldn’t stand for any political excuses.
"They’d build a moat before they let it happen, they’d call for the National Guard, the Navy Seals, they would never allow this to happen," Milan said. "But this happens every single week in the neighborhoods I’m talking about, and because they’re black and they’re poor, everybody just shrugs their shoulders. … Well, if we’re one Chicago, if we’re really one Chicago, we’re not going to put up with it anymore."
Lavontay White Jr. was 2 years old. Takiya Holmes was 11. Kanari Gentry Bowers was 12.
These three children murdered in three separate street gang incidents aren’t political. They’re dead.
They don’t require cheap rhetoric about feelings. What we owe them are answers.
Listen to "The Chicago Way," with John Kass and Jeff Carlin—and guests William Lee and Bob Milan—here: http://wgnradio.com/category/wgn-plus/category/thechicagoway/