Chicago priest: Our city is in a state of emergency

As we’ve covered here more times than I could count, the gang violence problem in Chicago has expanded too far to be ignored. The number of murders in the city is now on the cusp of the total killings for all of 2015 with four months left in this year. The total number of people shot is measured in the thousands rather than the hundreds, and the clearance rate for murders is pathetically low. If the number of people dead in any American city from a flood or fire was even a quarter of the number of bodies stacked up in the Windy City there would have long since been a declaration of a state of emergency.

And that’s precisely what’s being called for by one of Chicago’s more outspoken priests. (Law Officer)

On Wednesday, a march for peace turned into a rally in hopes of turning the tide against the skyrocketing murders and shootings in Chicago.

“In August so far we’ve had 470 people shot, that’s more than 15 people a day shot in Chicago,” said Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church.

The violence numbers are outrageous. More than 2800 people have been shot in Chicago this year, and nearly as many people have been murdered by the end of August as there were people killed in all of last year.

Father Michael Pfleger is outraged. He wants the situation treated like a natural disaster had hit the city.

“I’m asking Governor Rauner, call a state of emergency for the city of Chicago,” Pfleger said.

Could Governor Bruce Rauner actually declare a state of emergency? I don’t see why not. There seems to be a wide latitude in such decisions for governors historically. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency in Milwaukee last month during the BLM riots and went so far as to call in the national guard. It prompted some backlash from liberal groups but I didn’t hear anyone declaring that it was beyond his authority to do so. A state of emergency can obviously be caused by things other than severe weather alerts. But would it really address the problem beyond the short term?

One point I’ve been harping on for years now in this space is that we’re dealing with a problem in our inner cities which is never going to be solved by the government alone. Yes, we can do much more than is currently being accomplished by channeling more resources into law enforcement efforts and returning to broken windows style policies which shut down a lot of criminal activity before it spirals out of control. And community relations can be improved through the use of publicly available body cameras and dash cam recorders, combined with cops who are out in the community and engaging those who want a return to law and order. But in the end, the underlying culture of violence can only be truly curbed by churches, community organizations and families that raise a generation of residents who reject wholesale gang violence, drug culture and crime. Fighting the tide will never be as effective as shutting it off at the source.

Perhaps Father Pfleger is the beginning of such a movement. He’s certainly been a controversial figure in some ways, speaking out on a variety of issues over the years and not really fitting any particular mold in the Social Justice Warrior battles. But whether you care for his “politics” on any given day or not, his overall message is one of peace and a return to civility and basic respect for human life. The churches would be an excellent place to start in terms of a revolution which rejects gang violence and a culture of death. If Chicago’s residents are to look for hope anywhere, the churches would be the most logical place to start.

God speed, Father Pfleger, and best of luck on your mission.