PI Original Ellyn Fortino Monday June 20th, 2016, 5:22pm

After Bloody Weekend In Chicago, Police Chief Reiterates Call For Tougher Gun Crime Sentences

After a violent weekend in Chicago, the city's top cop called for stricter laws involving gun crimes.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says gun crime sentences are too light in Illinois.

There are "just too many people in Chicago willing to use guns" and "too many guns in Chicago," Johnson told reporters Monday after speaking on a City Club of Chicago panel about gun violence in the city. 

"Until we get the accountability gap corrected, we're gonna continue to see this type of violence," he said. "The Chicago Police Department is doing its part in terms of arresting people with guns. Where we're losing it is holding those repeat gun offenders accountable for what they do."

The City Club of Chicago discussion followed a bloody Father's Day weekend in Chicago. Between Friday afternoon and early Monday morning, shootings in the city left 13 people dead and at least 42 injured, bringing the total number of homicides so far this year to 306. Since January, there have been roughly 1,800 shootings in Chicago.

Among those killed over the weekend was 21-year-old Salvador Suarez, who was fatally shot in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. Suarez was walking down the street Sunday afternoon when a vehicle drove up, and someone inside opened fire with an assault rifle in an apparent gang-related shooting, according to police.
Johnson, who became Chicago's police chief in April, called the city's violence "unacceptable" and said the system of accountability for gun offenses is "broken." The minimum sentence for illegal gun possession is one year in Illinois.
"We have to have our legislators help us with this situation and strengthen our mandatory sentencing as far as gun crimes go," he said. 
Johnson had a message for judges as well.
"Help us out in this fight," he said. "If they are repeat gun offenders, clearly slapping them on the wrist isn't gonna help. We have to remove these individuals off the street until such time they indicate that they want to be productive members of society. But until then, if they (are) repeatedly committing gun offenses, then we need to hold them accountable."
Chicago police pull more illegal guns off the streets than the Los Angeles and New York City police departments combined, Johnson said. So far this year, Chicago police have removed one illegal gun from the city's streets every 60 minutes, the top cop said.
Johnson said there are about 1,400 individuals driving the violence that plagues many Chicago communities.  
"With those individuals, we do bring them in or we do go to their residence, knock on their doors and offer them assistance to help them get back on the right track and get out of that lifestyle," Johnson said. "We have had some success in it and we have had not as much success as we may want to."
Johnson said curbing gun violence is an effort that needs involvement from "all Chicagoans."
"We have to get more from ourselves. We have to get more from the parents that are raising these kids," he said.
Johnson noted that 63 percent of this year's murder victims in Chicago were between the ages of 16 and 30, and 82 percent had criminal histories. Ninety percent of the murder victims were shot with guns, he said.
Also on the City Club of Chicago panel was Kim Foxx, the Democratic nominee for Cook County State's Attorney.
Foxx called for a "proactive, strategic approach to deal with guns before they get into the hands of those who don't need them."
One part of that approach, Foxx said, should concentrate on straw purchasers, or someone with a clean record who buys a gun for someone else. Foxx said there were only three arrests last year in Chicago for straw purchasing. 
State legislation to crack down on straw purchases was approved by the Illinois General Assembly last month and is awaiting action by the governor. 
That legislation "will help give us stronger tools to deal with straw purchasing," Foxx said.
"We have to be aggressive in dealing with that," she stressed, adding that gun violence should also be treated as a public health crisis in addition to a law enforcement issue. 
Other panelists included South Side religious leader Father Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Church, and Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, mother of slain Chicago teenager Hadiya Pendleton, who was fatally shot at a South Side park in 2013.
Pfleger said a state of emergency should be declared in Illinois over Chicago's gun violence.
He said communities affected by gun violence are suffering from "post-traumatic stress," adding that "too many of our children are becoming roadkill on the streets of Chicago."
Federal resources that could come with declaring a state of emergency could be used to "hire more police," create more jobs, "redevelop some of our communities that look like they've been hit by a tornado or hurricane" and "bring back to our communities the equal opportunity our children deserve," Pfleger said.
Brighton Park is among the communities impacted by gun violence. Residents of the Southwest Side community held a demonstration last week to press for greater anti-violence initiatives and increased education funding. The group, which saw support from State Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago), Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and Chicago Ald. George Cardenas (12th), is seeking a meeting with the mayor to discuss ways to combat violence and stave off school budget cuts.
"We have 24 shootings in the first half of the year. The shootings are a wake up call that Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan is not working," the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council's Sara Reschly said. "He has put very little into violence prevention programs. We need funding to stop the shootings."


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