BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter email@example.com June 28, 2012 12:40PM
Family members embrace after Heaven Sutton, 7 years old, died after she was shot in yard of her home at 1728 N. Luna, in the Austin neighborhood, Thursday, June 28, 2012 . | John H. White~Sun-Times.
Updated: June 28, 2012 9:54PM
Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday lashed out at the gang thugs who shot and killed a 7-year-old selling lemonade under her mother's watch in the latest example of the gang violence that's driving a 38 percent spike in Chicago homicides.
Emanuel seems to be running out of things to say when innocent kids are caught in the gang crossfire or when bodies and shooting victims pile up after each summer weekend.
So he took a new tack after the Wednesday night murder of Heaven Sutton, the 7-year-old North Austin girl who begged her mother to move after several recent shootings in their neighborhood.
Instead of defending gang strategies, the mayor went on the offensive against the cold-hearted gang members engaged in a shootout around kids and a mom who was right there watching.
"This is not about crime. This is about values. Take your gang conflict away from a 7-year-old. Who raised you? You have a 7-year-old selling lemonade. You're a member of a gang coming to get lemonade and another gang member is driving by. Where were you raised and who raised you? Stay away from the kids," the mayor said, his voice rising.
"This is not about just crime. I'll take the responsibility for what we need to do [about gangs]. But if you think this is not about partnership if you do not think this is about a set of values. Near a child? How dare you."
Chicago's crime this year has drawn national attention. On Thursday, the rookie mayor was asked whether he's concerned about Chicago's image as safe place to live, work, shop and visit. That's an image he has tried to cultivate with events like the NATO Summit and the summit of Nobel laureates and with the labor reforms aimed at luring more conventions to McCormick Place.
"What I'm concerned about is a 7-year-old. . . . I know we have a vibrant city. Companies are coming here. People are enjoying it. I want that shared throughout the city," he said.
"The violence we're talking about is in parts of the city. We still have a reduction in violence throughout the city, but I'm not resting until a child can sell lemonade. . . . Who is this gangbanger shooting another gang member near a kid? It's not about crime. It's about values. Where in your world experience do you take a shot at another adult next to a kid?"
For the second time this week, the mayor expressed confidence in the anti-gang strategies that his Police Supt. Garry McCarthy has put in place. Then, he tried to change the subject.
"I have my responsibility. We'll do our responsibility. But don't lose sight of the role that community and values and partnerships play. Which is why we're engaging ministers. Which is why we're engaging CeaseFire and we're engaging others in helping on this effort," the mayor said.
Pressed on whether he remains confident that his policing strategies are working, the mayor said, "Look, I evaluate everything all the time . . . But this is more than policing."
The mayor pointed once again to stricter curfew laws, expanded after-school and summer programs and to his efforts to shut down problem liquor stores and rewrite the city's firearms ordinance to satisfy a federal judge.
He also talked about the new state racketeering law that authorities hope to use to target gang leaders.
"So far, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we're actually about 20 shootings less than we were last year. But that's not what I'm interested in. I'm interested in a 7-year-old doing what 7-year-olds should do," the mayor said.
"And I want to bring to that community on the West Side the type of safety that exists in other parts of the city . . . If you think values or culture or outrage don't play a role, then we have a disagreement about what the contributions are."
Earlier this week, the city forged a $1 million partnership with CeaseFire, a Chicago-based anti-violence group that sends ex-felons into the streets to mediate gang conflicts and stop shootings. The decision was made over McCarthy's strenuous objections.
Behind the scenes, McCarthy had complained about having to deal with an organization full of ex-felons that refuses to share information with the police about brewing conflicts.