*Chicago police Superintendent Jody Weis is facing mounting criticism for holding a so-called “gang summit” last month, even though several police departments across the country have used this method for decades in an attempt to curb crime.
The three biggest complaints are that Weis himself was at the meeting, the department should instead be adding more officers on the streets and gangs won’t take the message seriously, reports the Associated Press.
“What are we doing negotiating or having a sit-down with urban terrorists who are killing with guns and drugs on the streets?” Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti said. “Gangs are not to be coddled.”
Even though the overall homicide rate is down in Chicago, the number of brazen shootings has escalated this year, prompting two state lawmakers to request the National Guard be brought in to patrol streets. Just yesterday (Sept. 1), two cops were shot and injured while serving a warrant.
The Chicago Gang Violence Reduction Initiative launched at an unpublicized Aug. 17 meeting, when Weis met with parolees and reputed gang members from Chicago’s west side. The meeting, which was also attended by family members of victims, was first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.
Some reputed members of gangs like the Four Corner Hustlers and the Traveling Vice Lords said they were surprised to see Weis there after being told by their parole officers to show up. Many were visibly angry and some left during the meeting.
But Weis has defended the initiative with the support of Mayor Richard M. Daley and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who likened the tactic to his office holding parolee forums to warn people leaving prison that they’ll be watched.
Weis said the message was simple: “If you should resort to violence, we’ll sharpen our focus on you and really, really make your lives uncomfortable. You have the ability to influence people within your sphere. You guys are in the position to stop the killing.”
Weis said prosecutors at the meeting threatened attendees that they could be charged under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act if killings were traced back to gangs with members attending the meeting. The federal law, commonly known as RICO, provides stiffer penalties for acts performed as part of a criminal organization such as the Mafia.
Still, some hate the idea of cops meeting with gang members.
“I don’t think that’s the way to go,” Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said. He suggested going after guns on the streets.
Fioretti, who is mulling a run at Chicago mayor, said Weis shouldn’t have been there with reputed gangsters.
“He brought them to a table and made them equal,” Fioretti said.