Demand Safer Streets in Chicago

Target: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Goal: Allocate more resources toward fighting violent crime in Chicago.

On Tuesday, January 29, 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was fatally shot in a public park on Chicago’s South Side, just a mile away from President Obama’s home and only three blocks away from her school. The honor roll student, volleyball player, and majorette with the King College Prep Band had taken shelter in the park during a rainstorm with a group of about a dozen other teens when a gunman opened fire. Pendleton and two other teens were shot as they attempted to run away. Hadiya passed away shortly after being taken to a nearby hospital. Police believe that Pendleton was not the intended target of the gunman– rival gang members were.

Just days before her death, Pendleton was in Washington D.C. performing at a number of inaugural events with her marching band. She played at the Presidential Inauguration Heritage Music Festival—a competition for bands across the nation—as well as an inaugural brunch event at Howard University. Similarly, like the hundreds of thousands of others who packed Washington’s National Mall on Inauguration Day, Hadiya had the privilege of seeing President Obama sworn into office. Unfortunately, this young woman’s promising future was needlessly cut short by gang violence.

Hadiya’s tragic death has brought renewed attention to Chicago’s unyielding wave of violent crime. Gang-related violence throughout the city is not anything new. Nevertheless, during the past few years, violent crime has become more widespread and frequent. But if we put the city’s homicide rate into perspective, the statistics become even more startling: over the past decade, more people have been murdered on Chicago’s streets than total U.S. casualties in Afghanistan; the Chicago total is also higher than the number of Americans killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Just last year, for instance, Chicago had 516 homicides.

Part of the answer lies in how and why the city’s homicide rate got to its current breaking point. Since the Great Recession in 2008, many Chicago municipalities have resorted to scaling back their police forces in order to remain economically solvent. As a result, many Chicago neighborhoods have a completely inadequate police presence—contributing to increased instances of lawlessness. And although the city has some of the toughest gun control laws in the nation, these laws do not address secondary or intermediate gun suppliers from who many Chicago criminals get their firearms. Tougher penal sentences and universal background checks, however, may potentially halt the influx of illegal firearms from entering the city.

More action must be taken in order to address Chicago’s disturbingly high homicide rate. Pressure Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel into taking stronger actions to prevent tragedies like Hadiya Pendleton’s murder from happening again.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mayor Rahm Emanuel,

The unyielding wave of gang-related, gun violence that has swept Chicago over the past several years needs to be addressed by your administration. There were 516 reported homicides in Chicago over 2012. And as of January 28, there were over 40 homicides—82% of which were gun-related. We need real solutions, not vacuous political rhetoric. Your administration must pursue a multi-faceted approach that will help ameliorate the use of illegal firearms, get more police on the streets, and help end the widespread gang activity that has terrorized this city.

As you probably know, Hadiya Pendleton was tragically slain in a Chicago public park, days after she performed in Washington D.C. at several inaugural events. The shooting occurred only three blocks away from Hadiya’s school, and one mile away from the President’s home. This senseless murder not only underscores the need for more gun reform throughout Illinois, but it also reinforces the city’s need to take a tougher stand towards gang violence. The memory of Hadiya, as well as those who have died before her because of similar acts of violence, deserve more action on the part of Chicago.

Mayor Emanuel, the city of Chicago cannot handle any more indecisiveness and inaction on this issue. Please put more police in the neighborhoods that need them most, pressure the Illinois General Assembly into enacting tougher gun control measures throughout the state, and help bring an end to the crippling cycle of youth violence that has plagued this city.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

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