Cook County has convened a new gun violence task force directed at recommending realistic policies on gun violence reduction.
The first meeting, on Tuesday, was focused on data sharing between law enforcement entities. One of three public hearings scheduled through April 19, the meeting included testimony from the University of Chicago Crime Lab, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and the Illinois State Police regarding the data they had gathered on gun violence, said Abdon Pallasch (Medill ‘87), spokesman for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
Cook County commissioner Richard Boykin came up with the idea to create a task force and worked with the Sheriff’s Office to pass an ordinance last October, calling for there to be 15 members representing different offices of law enforcement on the task force, Pallasch said. Members include appointees by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Gov. Rauner, Sheriff Dart, the Cook County Board President, the Cook County State’s Attorney and the county’s Chief Judge. The force formed this January to begin addressing gun violence in the county.
“There is nothing more important than making sure that people are safe from being terrorized by gun violence,” Boykin said. “You can’t get to economic development, you can’t get to education, you can’t get to infrastructure development unless you have got safe communities.”
Boykin said he developed a seven-point plan prior to forming the task force that calls for Gov. Bruce Rauner to declare a state of emergency with respect to gun violence. Boykin said he hoped the plan would help serve as a basis for the set of recommendations the task force would work on. The plan includes implementing parenting workshops, strictly enforcing curfew laws, charging perpetrators with domestic terrorism and creating job training for at-risk areas.
Last year, Chicago led the nation in the number of people shot with 2,986 victims and around 500 killed, Boykin said. He added that as of Feb. 18, at least 370 people had been shot and 90 killed so far this year.
The commissioner said strengthening families and ensuring that values and good behavior were taught in homes would help to create honest citizens that would ultimately lead to a reduction in gun violence.
Right now, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, including Sheriff Tom Dart, are taking the lead on the task force, Boykin said.
“There are a lot of task forces that issue recommendations that never go anywhere and (Dart) doesn’t want this to be one of those kind of task forces,” Pallasch said. “He would like the task force to focus on small, achievable goals. What are some things that the task force can recommend to be implemented immediately that would have immediate impact on the streets?”
Because the meeting was open to the public, many citizens had the opportunity to provide input and share their experiences, Evanston police chief Richard Eddington said. The next hearings, to be held March 15 and April 19 in the Cook County Board Room, will address other social aspects of gun violence, such as public health.
“(The force) is an attempt to coordinate all the assets of the criminal justice system to focus on this problem,” Eddington said. “I’m appreciative of the Sheriff collecting this group and appreciative of his goal to focus on gun violence in an effort that doesn’t require additional outside assistance.”
Boykin said all ideas would be heard and taken into account when forming the recommendations.
“Gun violence is a problem not just in the black community or the Latino community,” Boykin said. “This is a city of Chicago problem, it is a Cook County problem and I think that we all have to come together no matter what our racial backgrounds or no matter what our economic status in the city or county.”
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