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US cities reporting fewer murders hope crime strategies will promote peace this summer – KGET 17

CHICAGO (AP) — An expected spike in violent crime this summer has mayors and police officials across the U.S. rolling out familiar strategies to make police officers more visible and engaging with community groups, in some cases relying on civilians to conduct policing. watch and keep the peace.

Chicago is among US cities under scrutiny after a mayoral race that focused on public safety in response to calls for change. Violence often spikes during the summer months, so this holiday weekend will undoubtedly increase the pressure on Mayor Brandon Johnson’s new administration to deliver short-term improvement along with the long-term strategies the former union organizer advocated while campaigning to lead the nation’s third-largest city.

“It’s going to take all of us, not just police, not just city government, to make sure our communities can live and thrive in peace and safety,” Johnson said at a lakefront news conference promoting the city’s Memorial Day weekend strategy.

Most major U.S. cities are reporting fewer homicides this year, according to data compiled by the Criminal Justice Council, which formed a Crime Trends Task Force this spring in hopes of providing more real-time information on crime.

The shift is a tentative delay after those spikes that began in 2020 and began to taper off last year. The totals are still far higher than pre-pandemic reports and “are cause for serious concern, but not panic,” said Thomas Abt, founder of the University of Maryland’s Center for the Study and Practice of Violence Reduction.

“Where cities are having success, they’re generally investing in a balanced approach that includes the police but … also supports community-based approaches,” said Abt. “They recognized the need for enforcement, but also emphasized prevention and intervention.”

Officials in Cleveland, Ohio, Newark, NJ and Philadelphia have announced summer plans to make police officers more visible at locations where violent crimes have occurred, while promoting community efforts to prevent violence and provide alternative activities.

In Baltimore, city officials, not police officers, will impose a curfew on teenagers from Friday through the Labor Day weekend. The controversial policy has long been on the books but rarely implemented.

“We’re going back to the old days,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said in announcing summer enforcement, after two teenagers were wounded as hundreds of teenagers gathered Sunday night in the city’s popular Inner Harbor neighborhood.

The shooting in April, which occurred as officers tried to break up a fight at the scene, contributed to a significant increase in youth violence, which has continued even as overall shootings and homicides have been on a downward trend in Baltimore.

Under Scott’s plan, non-law enforcement personnel would approach children and teenagers who violate curfew policies on weekends and holidays. They will initially encourage the children to go home, but if that fails, the children will be transported to a youth engagement center that provides a supervised environment for socializing.

In Detroit, federal prosecutors this summer are expanding efforts to help local police by taking cases of armed carjackings and business robberies in high-crime areas, in addition to certain gun crimes. Federal convictions usually carry longer sentences.

“The most dangerous people will be immediately prosecuted in federal court,” US Attorney Dawn Ison said Wednesday.

After a half-dozen shootings — including one fatal one — in downtown Detroit over a weekend in April, Police Chief James White implemented a crowd control strategy that included an increased police presence. A curfew for minors will also be enforced.

In Chicago, mayors face annual pressure to show a proactive approach to violent crime in the run-up to Memorial Day, the traditional start of warm weather and summer events that draw crowds.

Johnson promised to move away from the police-first strategy when he took office in early May, but also distanced himself from calls to cut money for the police. He chose a retired veteran of the department as interim police chief.

Federal data shows Chicago’s homicide rate remains lower than other Midwestern cities, such as St. Louis and Detroit, with 211 reported homicides so far this year, down from the same period in 2022 and 2021.

Johnson’s holiday weekend strategy includes a visible police presence, including bag checks at crowded beaches, parks and events. Philanthropic and business groups have donated to anti-violence groups that organize events for young people. And the state of Illinois authorized a team of 30 “peacekeepers” – not police – who have training and experience in de-escalating conflicts, to roam Chicago in order to prevent the outbreak of violence.

Community groups with similar strategies have been operating throughout Chicago for years, focusing on specific neighborhoods or blocks with a history of violence. State officials said their team would be mobile and able to respond anywhere, including downtown, where large gatherings of teenagers over a warm April weekend ended in several shootings and other violence.

Norman Livingston Kerr led an anti-violence organization in Chicago before becoming assistant deputy mayor for public safety under Johnson’s predecessor, Lori Lightfoot. He now consults with cities and nonprofits to develop anti-violence strategies that rely on de-escalation or intervention. He is encouraged by signs that the city and state are devoting long-term resources to efforts like the peace program.

“This violence intervention work, it can take time for people to see how it works and believe in it,” Kerr said. “I’m not going to dwell on the fact that it took years for this to happen, I’m going to say that this is a new day.”

Johnson has promised to give a variety of community organizations a bigger role in his administration’s public safety strategy and devoted much of Thursday’s town hall presentation to promoting plans for basketball tournaments, neighborhood barbecues and karaoke contests.

Tamar Manasseh, founder of Mothers/Men Against Senseless Murder, said her organization has worked to prevent crime around the South Side intersection for nearly a decade using “positive loitering.” This weekend is no exception, with a neighborhood barbecue and other activities planned.

“We built a community center, our pop-up community center, on a vacant lot,” Manaseh said. “And since then we’ve seen crime drop astronomically. And we feel it can happen anywhere.”

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Associated Press writers Leo Skene in Baltimore and Corey Williams and Ed White in Detroit contributed to this report.

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