As President Obama returns to his adopted hometown of Chicago to give his farewell speech, a dark cloud hangs over the city where the record-setting murder rate is so high there are pleas to declare a state of emergency.
“When there is a fire in America, a tornado, a hurricane, they call it a state of emergency, federal funds come in, and help rebuild that town or that community,” said prominent anti-crime activist, Father Michael Pfleger. “Well, hell, we have a state of emergency in Chicago.”
In 2016, 762 people were murdered in Chicago. That’s a 63 percent increase from the 468 murders recorded in 2015 and almost double the murders in 2014, according to Chicago Police.
Shootings also are way up — 4,331 people were shot in Chicago in 2016, up from 3,550 in 2015, according to police.
In recent months, the president has been mostly quiet about an aggressive solution to Chicago’s violent crime epidemic. The city saw more murders in 2016 than New York and Los Angeles combined, yet is considerably smaller in population than either city. Chicagoans wonder if the president will address the city’s crime – the “elephant in the room” – during his speech Tuesday night.
“I cannot recall a time that President Obama said directly about Rahm Emanuel that he needs to do something about this violence,” said Chicago community leader and activist Pastor Corey Brooks.
President-elect Donald Trump has already weighed in, making headlines when he tweeted that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel should seek federal help if he can’t fix the city’s crime—which also raises the question if policing in the city and even nationwide might grow beyond a state and local operation under the Trump administration.
“President-Elect Trump is directly putting the ball in the mayor’s court and that’s the way it should be,” Brooks said.