Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy can seem to do little but defend their tactics and plead to the gangs to stop shooting children.
“We’ve got two gangbangers, one standing next to a kid,” Emanuel said on CBS News. “Get away from that kid. Take your stuff away to the alley. Don’t touch the children of the city of Chicago. Don’t get near them.”
But on Monday alone, nine young people were shot in gang-related violence, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Sun-Times, like Emanuel and McCarthy, seems to believe that liberal nostrums are the answer to the violence.
But those have had very limited (or even no) success.
Ask New York City, which listened to criminologist James Q. Wilson and cleaned up that city in the 1980s and ‘90s. Wilson’s essay called “Broken Windows,” published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1982, laid out his theory.
“Consider a building with a few broken windows,” he wrote. “If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.”
But there is a link, and that link is the community’s values.
That’s what New York City experienced, and it’s something even Emanuel seems to realize.
“I don’t buy this case where people say they don’t have values,” he told CBS. “They do have values. They have the wrong values.”
Wilson died in May, at age 80. Many of the obituaries were dismissive, even caustic. The Boston Review, for example, wrote that he had “much to answer for.”
Writer Glenn Loury said “When I consider the impact of his ideas, I can’t help but think about the millions of folks being hassled even as we speak by coercive state agents who are acting on some Wilsonian theory recommending stop-and-frisk policing.”
But it works. Lives are saved. Property is protected. Crime is reduced.
Order imposed from the outside is still order. It’s certainly not being encouraged from within; where is Jesse Jackson? His Chicago-based Rainbow-PUSH Coalition blames guns, not the youths committing the murders. Jackson condemns the National Rifle Association, not the gangs. “We must march to demand jobs,” he adds.
What the city must do is police the streets. It must fix those broken windows. And it’s making a start. Emanuel has budgeted $4 million to demolish abandoned buildings, and he is pledging to board up vacant ones being used as gang hangouts. That’s a start.
But it will take a real commitment to community policing, to putting patrols in those troubled neighborhoods, in order to help change the culture.
The bloodletting must end.