Two Chicago lawmakers want the National Guard brought in to help fight a surge of violent crime in the city, saying there is a “war” in Chicago that warrants the same kind of deployment as the U.S. has in the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Democratic state Reps. John Fritchey and LaShawn K. Ford are urging Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis, Mayor Richard Daley and Gov. Pat Quinn to order the Illinois National Guard to Chicago, where 113 people have been killed in shootings, stabbings, beatings and other violent crimes in 2010. The death toll at this time last year was 105.
At a news conference Sunday, Fritchey and Ford said the violence in Chicago this year has claimed the same number of lives as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, although U.S. military officials report 133 American troops have been killed in 2010.
Police officers investigate a double homicide in Chicago on July 28, 2008.
Scott Olson, Getty Images
Police officers investigate a double homicide in Chicago in 2008. So far, 113 people have died in violent crimes in Chicago this year.
“As we speak, National Guard members are working side by side with our troops to fight a war halfway around the world,” Fritchey said. “The unfortunate reality is that we have another war that is just as deadly taking place right in our backyard.”
In an interview with AOL News, Fritchey said he partnered with Ford, a native of the city’s Englewood section who represents much of the crime-ridden area, to crack down on the violence that often spikes during the spring and summer.
Seven people were killed and 15 others wounded in a wave of shootings in a 12-hour period April 15 and April 16 across Chicago. Last week, five people were fatally beaten or shot, including a 20-month-old girl who died of a gunshot to the head, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
“Superintendent Weis has said he needs more manpower to patrol the hot spots, and the reality is that the money isn’t there to hire more police officers,” Fritchey said. “I’m simply proposing a solution. We have trained and ready men and women in the National Guard who can assist in these neighborhoods.”
Weis told reporters he does not believe the National Guard could transition seamlessly into police work because its troops have not been trained in police procedures like executing search warrants or preserving evidence for potential prosecution. He said he hoped to target violent “hot spots” with help from 100 officers who would volunteer for a summer-long “strategic response team.”
“As much as I’d like to have as much help as possible, I am not sure mixing the National Guard with local law enforcement is the solution,” he said. “The military doesn’t work under the same U.S. constitutional amendments that law enforcement does.”
Fritchey told AOL News that Weis’ concerns “simply don’t hold water.”
“I have every confidence that the governor and mayor and superintendent can find a way to integrate the troops to work with the police officers,” he said. “These same National Guard troops are trained to do so. They are deployed to help train Afghani police.”
Weis said he would be open to the lawmakers’ proposal if the mayor supported it. Quinn’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment today.
While Fritchey noted that he and Ford do not suggest “rolling tanks down the street,” they believe troops could help curb the gang violence that has long plagued Chicago’s South Side.
“U.S. troops have been winning the hearts and minds [of people] in Iraq,” Ford said in a statement. “They’ve stabilized those communities. They made those communities much better. Now those communities are safe. That’s what we want right here in Illinois, for the National Guard to come in and stabilize these communities.”
“I’m tired of seeing little kids get shot,” Fritchey told AOL News. “With the summer months approaching, we can only expect more violence on the streets.”
He said that Ford was meeting with his constituents and believed many would welcome the troops “with open arms.”
But at least one Englewood resident told Chicago’s WBBM-TV she is opposed to potential military presence.
“Bring in troops — for what? Are they going to have martial law or something?” Jacqueline Hamilton asked. “Come on now, we’re not over in Iraq.”