CHICAGO — A rise in violent crime this summer is expected to lead mayors and police officials across the U.S. to use familiar strategies to make officers more visible and engage with community groups, in some cases relying on civilians to enforce curfews. and maintain peace.
Chicago is among US cities under scrutiny after a mayoral race that has focused on public safety in response to calls for change. Violence often spikes during the summer months, so this bank holiday weekend is sure to ramp up the pressure Mayor Brandon Johnson’s new administration provide short-term improvement alongside long-term strategies former union organizer spoke during the campaign to lead the country’s third largest city.
“It’s going to take all of us, not just the police, not just city officials, to make sure our communities can live and thrive in peace and safety,” Johnson said at a lakeside press conference to promote the city. Memorial Day weekend strategy.
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Most major U.S. cities are reporting fewer homicides this year, according to data compiled by the Council on Criminal Justice, which created a crime trends task force this spring in hopes of providing more real-time information on crime.
The change is a tentative reprieve after the spikes that began in 2020 and began to decline last year. The overall numbers remain well above pre-pandemic reports and are “reason for serious concern, but not for panic,” said Thomas Abt, founding director of the Center for the Study and Practice of Violence Reduction at the University of Maryland.
“Where cities are successful, they typically invest in a balanced approach that includes police but … also supports community-based approaches,” said Abt. “They recognized the need for enforcement, but also emphasized prevention and intervention.”
Officials in Cleveland, Ohio, Newark, New Jersey, and Philadelphia announced plans this summer to increase the presence of officers in violent crime scenes and to promote community efforts to prevent violence and provide alternative activities.
In Baltimore, city officials – not the police – will impose a curfew on teenagers beginning Friday and continuing through Labor Day weekend. The controversial policy has long been on the books, but rarely performed.
“We’re going back to the old days,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said in announcing the summer enforcement after two teenagers were injured when hundreds of teenagers gathered in the city’s popular Inner Harbor neighborhood on Sunday night.
The shooting in April, which occurred as police tried to break up a fight at the scene, led to a significant spike in youth violence that has persisted even as overall shootings and homicides in Baltimore have been on the decline.
Under Scott’s plan, non-law enforcement officers would target children and teenagers who violate the curfew policy on weekends and holidays. First, they will encourage the children to go home, but if that doesn’t work, the children will be taken to a youth activity center that provides a supervised recreational environment.
In Detroit, federal prosecutors are stepping up efforts to help local police this summer, taking on cases involving armed carjackings and business robberies in high-crime areas, in addition to some gun crimes. Federal convictions usually result in longer terms.
“The most dangerous people will be immediately prosecuted in federal court,” US Attorney Dawn Ison said Wednesday.
After a half-dozen shootings — including one fatal one — in downtown Detroit over a single weekend in April, Police Chief James White instituted a crowd control strategy that included an increased police presence. A curfew for minors will also be enforced.
In Chicago, mayors face annual pressure to show a proactive approach to violent crime in the run-up to Memorial Day, the traditional start of warm weather and summer events that draw crowds.
Johnson promised to scrap the policing strategy when he took office in early May, but he has also distanced himself from calls for cuts to police spending. As a department veteran, he chose a retiree temporary chief of police.
Federal data show Chicago’s homicide rate remains lower than other Midwestern cities such as St. Louis and Detroit, with 211 murders were reported so far this year, which is lower than the same period in 2022 and 2021.
Johnson’s holiday weekend strategy includes a high-profile officer presence, including bag checks at crowded beaches, parks and events. Philanthropic and business groups donated to anti-violence groups that organized events aimed at youth. And the state of Illinois allowed it a team of 30 “peacemakers” — not police officers — who have the training and experience in de-escalating conflicts to roam Chicago to prevent outbreaks of violence.
[ Increased police presence, street outreach among Mayor Johnson’s plans for Memorial Day public safety ]
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Community groups with similar strategies have been active for years throughout Chicago, focusing on specific neighborhoods or neighborhoods with a history of violence. State officials said their team would be mobile and able to respond anywhere, including downtown, where large gatherings of teenagers during a warm April weekend ended in several shootings and other violence.
Norman Livingston Kerr headed Chicago’s anti-violence organization before becoming assistant deputy mayor for public safety under Johnson’s predecessor. Laurie Lightfoot. He now consults with cities and nonprofits to develop anti-violence strategies that rely on de-escalation or intervention. He’s encouraged by signs that the city and state are devoting long-term resources to efforts like the peacemaker program.
“This anti-violence intervention works, it may take time for people to see that it works and believe it,” Kerr said. “I’m not going to dwell on the fact that it took years, I’m going to say it’s a new day.”
Johnson promised to give various community organizations a bigger role in his administration’s public safety strategy and spent much of the city’s presentation Thursday promoting plans for basketball tournaments, neighborhood barbecues and karaoke contests.
Tamar Manasia, founder of Mothers/Men Against Senseless Murder, said her organization has been working to prevent crime around the South Side intersection for nearly a decade using “positive loitering.” This weekend was no exception, a regional barbecue and other events were planned.
“We built a community center, our pop-up community center, on a vacant lot,” Manasia said. “And since then, we’ve seen an astronomical drop in crime. And we feel it can happen anywhere.”
Associated Press writers Leo Skeen in Baltimore and Corey Williams and Ed White in Detroit contributed to this report.