PI Original Ellyn Fortino Wednesday April 1st, 2015, 7:43pm

Garcia Sounds Off On Crime Stats, 'Stop And Frisk' Practices & Housing Issues

While on the campaign trail Wednesday, Chicago mayoral challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia weighed in on new crime stats, responded to the ACLU of Illinios' "stop and frisk" report and announced support for the Chicago Housing Initiative's "Keeping the Promise" ordinance. 

While on the campaign trail Wednesday, Chicago mayoral challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia weighed in on police "stop and frisk" practices as well as new crime numbers showing 2015 homicides are up 26 percent compared to last year.

Garcia, a Cook County commissioner, also attended a Chicago Housing Initiative (CHI) rally, during which he endorsed a pending city ordinance seeking to provide the Chicago City Council with greater oversight of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and expand access to affordable housing.

Garcia will go up against Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in next Tuesday's runoff election.

The Chicago Tribune reported yesterday that homicides from January through March of this year are up 26 percent over the same time period in 2014. Among other statistics reported by the newspaper, there was a 40 percent spike in shootings from January through March compared to the same three-month period last year.

Outside the 12th District police station, 1412 S. Blue Island Ave., Garcia also pointed out there are nearly 200 fewer Chicago Police Department detectives now compared to when Emanuel took office. Additionally, "There are only 11 forensic investigators in the entire department, a 60 percent reduction," Garcia said at the press conferce with supporters and retired cops.

Garcia reiterated his pledge to raise police staffing to an "adequate" level and expand restorative justice practices and community policing. Garcia has vowed to hire 1,000 new police officers, if elected.

When asked whether Garcia would keep Garry McCarthy on as CPD superintendent, should he win election, Garcia said the "grim" and "disappointing" crime stats don't "bode well" for the police chief.

"I want to remind everyone that while I'm being critical of the superintendent of police and the job that he's performed over the past four years, the ultimate reality about these grim numbers and the stark reality for too many realities lies with Rahm Emanuel," Garcia added.

Emanuel's campaign directed media inquiries in response to Garcia's news conference to the mayor's office. A request for comment was not immediately returned by the mayor's office.

Progress Illinois asked Garcia about the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois report issued last week on the Chicago Police Department's "misuse" of "stop and frisk" practices. 

Garcia said he's open to the stop and frisk reforms suggested by the ACLU, adding: "I think the most telling part of the ACLU report is that officers are not getting the training needed to ensure that constitutional liberties are being respected in terms of filling out the [contact] cards and the reporting that is there. This has serious implications. If people are being stopped without an adequate process, we expose the city to additional liability. It happened to New York. They had to settle a class action suit.

"We need to be pro-active in ensuring that everything that we do happens by the book, protects people's constitutional liberties," Garcia continued. "The police department needs to have the right staffing to ensure that the right type of training is happening everywhere in Chicago so that we uphold the constitution while providing the best services possible, as it relates to public safety, for citizens in every neighborhood in the city of Chicago."

CPD issued a statement responding to the ACLU's report, saying it "expressly prohibits racial profiling and other bias based policing."

"Over the past three years CPD has improved training to ensure police officers are aware of this prohibition and we will continue these important efforts," the CPD statement said, adding that the department has also updated its contact card policy over the past year.

After that press conference, Garcia went to an outdoor rally hosted by CHI to discuss affordable and public housing issues.

At the event, Garcia also talked about the ACLU's stop and frisk report.

"The excessive stop and frisk, which affects disproportionately African Americans and Latinos, is intolerable," he told the crowd. "It should not be permitted. It must be stopped. Proper training is important in that regard."

CHI leaders said they invited both mayoral candidates to the rally, and Emanuel did not return the group's invitation.

The event was held at the vacant site of the demolished Ida B. Wells public housing development. A new Mariano's grocery store is slated for the site, located at Pershing Road and Martin Luther King Drive in Bronzeville. The grocery store, due to open next year, is expected to generate 200 construction and 400 permanent jobs and is part of Emanuel's efforts to reduce food deserts in the city.

The site of the future Mariano's is behind the Oakwood Shores mixed-income housing development that CHA began constructing in 2003. When completed, Oakwood Shores will include 3,000 units on three former CHA housing project sites, including Wells as well as the Madden Park and Darrow homes.

The mixed-income development, to be completed over several phases, calls for the creation of 1,000 market-rate, 1,000 affordable and 1,000 public housing units.

CHI organizers say about 250 public housing units have be created at the site, meaning it lacks about 750 such units promised by the CHA.

"It was promised when (the Wells development) was demolished that it would be rebuilt and that people would be able to return here," Garcia said. "Today, we gather here, and it's a huge empty lot, and it's already been transferred elsewhere. There's something wrong with that."

Housing activists organized the rally to discuss CHI's Keeping the Promise ordinance, introduced by 13 aldermen in September.

Garcia said he supports the meausre, which was introduced after a fiscal review by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability showed the housing authority has amassed some $432 million in reserves in recent years primarily by socking away millions in federal funds intended for housing vouchers.

CHI points out in a news release that there is a huge need for CHA housing in the city. Last November, when the CHA opened its wait list for a 21-day period, 282,000 families applied for housing assistance, according to the housing group. Of those applicants, 15,900 indicated they are currently experiencing homelessness, CHI noted. 

Garcia told the crowd that he finds it "totally unacceptable and unconscionable and insulting that the Chicago Housing Authority would sit on (hundreds of millions of dollars) of resources that could benefit thousands and thousands of families in Chicago."

Under the proposed Keeping the Promise ordinance, the CHA would have to provide the council with quarterly reports on, among other things, vacant and offline housing, its voucher utilization rate and progress building replacement public housing.

The CHA would also have to increase the number of annual available housing vouchers and meet voucher funding utilization benchmarks. Failing to meeting the requirements "will result in immediate suspension of new city funding awards to CHA projects," the ordinance reads.

The measure would enforce the CHA's commitments to rebuild replacement housing. It would also require one-for-one replacement of standing low-income housing units that go into redevelopment.

A request for comment on whether the mayor supports the Keeping the Promise ordinance was not immediately returned by the mayor's office.

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