By Bill Ruthhart
President-elect Donald Trump took to Twitter Monday to again draw attention to Chicago's struggles with surging violent crime, this time suggesting that perhaps Mayor Rahm Emanuel should seek help from the federal government.
"Chicago murder rate is record setting -- 4,331 shooting victims with 762 murders in 2016," Trump wrote on Twitter. "If Mayor can't do it he must ask for Federal help!"
Trump's suggestion that violence hit a record level in 2016 was off the mark, but homicides indeed rose nearly 60 percent from 2015 to the highest levels in 20 years.
Trump's tweet came the morning after "60 Minutes" aired a segment on Chicago's violence, including an interview from Emanuel's former police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who said the city's Police Department was in crisis. The mayor fired McCarthy more than a year ago amid the fallout over the court-ordered release of a video showing a white police officer shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times.
Emanuel spokesman Adam Collins released a statement applauding that the president-elect was taking the crime issue seriously. Collins, though, did not directly address Trump's suggestion that Emanuel should seek federal help if he can't control the city's crime problem.
"As the president-elect knows from his conversation with the mayor, we agree the federal government has a strong role to play in public safety by funding summer jobs and prevention programming for at-risk youth, by holding the criminals who break our gun laws accountable for their crimes, by passing meaningful gun laws, and by building on the partnerships our police have with federal law enforcement," the statement said. "We are heartened he is taking this issue seriously and look forward to working with the new administration on these important efforts."
While Trump's tweet suggested the federal government might need to intervene to help Chicago in its fight against violence, the U.S. Justice Department has been conducting an investigation for more than a year into the Police Department's practices, including the use of force by officers.
The tweet wasn't the first time Trump has weighed in on Chicago's spike in violent crime.
On the campaign trail, he often singled out Chicago while calling for tougher police tactics like the controversial stop-and-frisk policy to deal with urban crime.
Stop-and-frisk was found unconstitutional by a federal judge in New York because of its overwhelming impact on minorities. New York abandoned its appeal of the ruling after Mayor Bill de Blasio took office.
"I think Chicago needs stop-and-frisk," Trump said at an event in September. "Now, people can criticize me for that or people can say whatever they want. But they asked me about Chicago and I think stop-and-frisk with good strong, you know, good strong law and order. But you have to do something. It can't continue the way it's going."
"If (police) see a person possibly with a gun or they think may have a gun, they will see the person and they'll look and they'll take the gun away," he said.
Trump also said violence in Chicago could be stopped in a week if police were "very much tougher."
The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Trump during last year's election.
Emanuel met with the president-elect last month at Trump Tower in New York. While the mayor did not volunteer it, he acknowledged he and Trump discussed Chicago's violent crime.
Asked if Trump brought up Chicago's crime woes, Emanuel responded, "We talked about public safety."
Emanuel did not detail any of Trump's discussions at the meeting, but the mayor said he'd been "very clear" about his views on the issue. Emanuel said he advocated for a multifaceted approach to fighting crime from more summer jobs, after-school programs and mentoring to improved community policing, increased economic development and stiffer sentences for gun crimes.
Collins said Monday that Emanuel and Trump had not discussed Chicago's crime since their meeting last month.
(c)2017 the Chicago Tribune