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Chicago grapples with worst murder rate in two decades

Chicago is experiencing its worst murder rate in two decades, with more than 140 homicides recorded in the first three months of the year. USA Chicago correspondent Aamer Madhani joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the reasons behind this surge in violence.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR ANCHOR:

    So far in 2016, Chicago is experiencing its worst murder rate in two decades with more than 140 homicides recorded in the first three months of the year. The nation's third-most populous city is sadly on pace to see as many as 600 murders this year.

    Joining me to discuss the reasons for this surge in violence is USA Today's Chicago correspondent, Aamer Madhani.

    Thanks for joining us. So, what's behind this? Is this because you didn't have that much snow and it wasn't that bad a winter? Is it gang violence?

  • AAMER MADHANI, USA TODAY’S CHICAGO CORRESPONDENT:

    I think it's a few things. The primary reason that the police department and the mayor are attributing the rise to is a rise in gang violence – and they blame also just a propensity of illegal guns on the streets. But police morale is also down. If you remember, the LaQuan McDonald video in late November spurred national attention here.

    And then January 1, the city entered an agreement with the ACLU to begin filling out what are essentially forms of every time they did a street stop through the – what's known as "stop and frisk" searches on the streets. And the reason that they agreed to do that is that the ACLU found that they were disproportionately targeting minorities. After the forms – they started doing the forms at the beginning of the year – stops went down by about 90 percent for the first three months of the year.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    You also have a new police chief. What's he expected to do, what's his record?

  • AAMER MADHANI:

    So, we actually have our third police chief in about three or four month. Gary McCarthy was fired soon after the LaQuan McDonald video came out. Interim superintendent John Escalante came in. And now more recently, Eddie Johnson, who's a 27-year career veteran of the Chicago Police Department. He grew up first nine years of his life in the (INAUDIBLE) Green housing projects, and then moved to the South Side where he still lives.

    He's very popular within the police department, so they're hoping that will help raise the morale of the rank and file. But he also brings his experience. He's talked about being a teenager and being stopped by Chicago cops for no reason. So there's hope that he can sort of bridge the gap in this city.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    What's the pressure on mayor Rahm Emanuel?

  • AAMER MADHANI:

    It's interesting. There's a lot of pressure on him, I think, right now. His approval ratings are in the dumps. He's at about 27 percent in a Chicago Tribune poll that was published in February. The thing is, he's got three years before reelection, but he's got big problems. He's got violence, of course, that we're talking about. He's got the police department and reengaging the trust in the African-American community that was crucial for him winning his second term.

    But then, even if he's able to solve all those things, you have a city that's in enormous fiscal disaster right now. We have $20 billion public workers' pension deficit here. And we have teachers that are on the precipice of going on strike.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. Aamer Madhani of USA Today, joining us from Chicago today. Thanks so much.

  • AAMER MADHANI:

    Thank you.

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