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Tourism Official Changes Story on Crime Between Tribune and Sun-Times

President and CEO of Choose Chicago Don Welsh says crime will impact tourism if it isn't diffused soon

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Tourism Chief Takes a Shot at Crime Stats

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Did Rahm Emanuel unleash his legendary temper on President and CEO of Choose Chicago Don Welsh?

Between Welsh's meeting with the Chicago Tribune's editorial board Wednesday morning where he put the mayor's crime strategy on the hotseat by saying Chicago's violent crime spike could affect the city's tourism efforts and an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times a short time later on Wednesday, Welsh's story changed dramatically.

Welsh, told the Tribune that the crime eruption could damage the city's efforts to renew its tourism industries after their recessional dip if it isn't taken care of soon.

"We hope this sunsets quickly," Welsh was quoted as saying to the Tribune editorial board Wednesday morning. "If this is not contained in a reasonable period of time, it will have an impact."

Most troubling for the prospective tourists, Welsh said, are reports of crimes creeping downtown, and even onto the Mag Mile, where a man was recently shot in what police say was an act of road rage. Welsh told the Tribune that Choose Chicago has received inquiries from meeting planners regarding whether the city is safe to visit.

The Sun-Times got a different story altogether.

"There has never been a second thought about how we position Chicago as the safest big city in the world. The only issue we’ve run into is this isolated gang activity that the mayor has been aggressively dealing with," Welsh was quoted as telling the Sun-Times in a follow-up interview Wednesday.

He added that he felt his initial words had been "misinterpreted" and that he is quick to assure callers that the violent crimes almost exclusively happen ouside the downtown area, according to the Sun-Times.

The reason for the change? The Sun-Times reports that Welsh's words to the Tribune sent the mayor's office into a flurry of damage-control.

Perhaps Welsh received a call from the quick-tempered mayor.

Chicago has had an almost 40-percent spike in homicides in the first six months of 2012 as compared to the same period in 2012, even though the overall crime has decreased. Weekly reports of the number of dead and wounded during violent weekends became the norm during the hotter than usual month of June.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy recently expressed confidence in the city's crime strategy at a press conference, but said a change will take time. 

"If anybody expects that we're going to throw on a switch and say, 'Okay, no more violence in the city of Chicago,' it's just not going to happen," he said to the Tribune.

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