Chicago Police Supt. David Brown on Monday shared his view on what it will take to slow the city's gun violence after another deadly weekend saw more than 60 people shot, including several teenagers.
Brown reiterated his blame on what he calls "the open air drug market" as both a principle cause of violence and a "pipeline" for young people into the criminal justice system - and said it will take more than policing to reverse decades of disinvestment.
"These individuals get taken advantage of at a very early stage of their lives, often because they're made to believe that there are no alternatives or a future for them," Brown said. "If the biggest employer on the West Side for these young people is the drug market, the challenge and the answer is much more than policing."
Brown relayed a conversation he had with a 25-year-old man at a recent community event who said he had seen 54 of his friends killed.
"Police alone is not and cannot be the only solution for the gun violence faced by so many throughout Chicago," he said. "What we, the Chicago Police Department, will continue to do is do the best we can taking violent offenders off the street and removing the illegal guns from our neighborhoods."
But, Brown said people in many communities, particularly young people in areas of high poverty, need opportunities.
"Their families live hand to mouth," he said. "They need the opportunity to have a job, to participate in the American dream, see a future."
"And not just, you know, this menial job that really doesn't provide a living wage. They need a real opportunity to learn a trade, to be part of the capitalist market and not driven to only see the drug market as the only legitimate way to make money," Brown continued.
He said young people turn to the drug market when they see it as the only choice they have and when they "don't see a legitimate market for them to participate in. They don't see people offering them a job, offering them a trade. They don't see businesses in their community."
"Drive through the West Side, it's just boarded up building after boarded up building after boarded up building," Brown continued. "No investment whatsoever, many people here tell me since the riots of the 1960s after Dr. Martin Luther King was killed. No one's really come back into the community and invested in a real way."
"So when you ask what's needed: It's what's needed in all of our homes to keep our families encouraged and hopeful that they're part of this American dream. That's what's needed," he added. "Fairness and equity. That's what's needed."
Later, when pressed about the effectiveness of specific initiatives CPD is implementing, Brown pushed back, saying again that it would take more than just police to solve the root causes of violence.
"These are real people, families, neighborhoods that have been left behind economically, job-wise, education-wise, opportunity-wise; they've been left behind. And that's on all of us," he said.
"This is a complex, nuanced problem that will take more than just the police," Brown continued. "This is about the lack of opportunity. That's not a policing issue. This is about social inequality. That's not police. This is about education opportunities, job opportunities, job training opportunities. That's not the police and yet you only ask me the question."
"If shootings in areas that are historically violent, have shootings for years, when will we ask the questions to other parts of Chicago? When will job opportunities come? When will there be opportunities for these young people to see hope? That the drug corner is not their only choice?"
"I'll be here every Monday answering questions about the weekend," Brown said in closing. "But if I'm the only person answering questions after the weekend, nothing will change."