Chronicle: County Task Force Begins Challenge Of Reducing Gun Violence

Dart and Pfleger.jpg

CHRONICLE CAPTION: Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart (left) and the Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Church on Chicago’s South Side, talk before Tuesday’s first meeting of the county’s Gun Violence Task Force. || Kevin Beese/For Chronicle Media

Wednesday, February 24, 2016 || Originally Published: Cook County Chronicle || Kevin Beese 

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart doesn’t have grandiose goals as part of the county’s Gun Violence Task Force.

“I have the record for gun-control bills killed in Springfield,” said the former state representative, who urged task force members at their first meeting Tuesday to not call for far-reaching national or state legislation “I don’t want this to be just another committee.  I do not want to make this into a press conference. This does not have a preordained outcome. If we can generate 4, 5, 10 small things to help our communities, we will have accomplished something.”

Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, who was the driving force behind creating the task force, agreed, saying small, but real steps need to be taken to turn the tide on violence on Chicago and county streets.

“We need to set policy to reduce the record number of gun-violence incidents in the city and county,” said Boykin, who represents [suburbs such as Maywood and Chicago neighborhoods such as] Austin [and] North Lawndale, and other areas plagued by violence.

Task force members said they are looking for low-cost or no-cost steps that can be taken to stem violence, which has reached epidemic proportions in Chicago.

One of the ideas brought up was screening and better blocking off of crime scenes to limit exposure for onlookers.

“One kid sees the crime scene from a shooting and he is part of a class of 30. Now you have 29 vicarious victims (when he tells them about it),” said Ernest Brown, the county’s director of homeland security and a former deputy superintendent in the Chicago Police Department. “We have to start at the crime scene.”

Members of the task force include the Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Church, who is an activist on Chicago’s South Side; and representatives of the Cook County State’s Attorney Office and the Chicago Police Department.

Michael Anton, deputy chief of the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, will chair the panel.

Pfleger said with individuals being charged in just 26 percent of gun crimes in Chicago, “we are saying there are no consequences. We are signaling that charges aren’t likely.”

Getting community members to talk is a key part of improving that crime clearance rate, task force members said

“We need to engage the community,” Anton said. “Someone living in the community knows what happened and who did it.”

Sheriff Dart said improved communication among area police departments and a shared database with information flowing about individuals would help police work as a more cohesive unit.

The sheriff said that the number of guns taken off south suburban streets by county deputies alone — not including weapons the local police departments confiscate – is staggering.

“Just using our data, Harvey and Dolton have a high number of gun crimes per capita,” Dart said, “higher than the city of Chicago.” VFP

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