Thursday, May 1, 2014

Breaking news from Chester on 'Live From the Newsroom'

John Linder has heard you loud and clear, Chester residents.

The city is under siege, experiencing an unending wave of gun violence. Residents are demanding action. Linder is planning to do just that.

Last night we actually had the chance to deliver some breaking news on our weekly Internet live-stream broadcast, 'Live From the Newsroom.' Chester Mayor John Linder, under siege from residents concerned with a rising tide of street gun violence, announced 'Operation Safe Streets,' in which city cops will get help from state police and other sources.

You can see the entire replay of the show here.

A formal announcement on the increased police presence on Chester streets is supposed to come next week from Linder and District Attorney Jack Whelan. I invited Linder to come back on the show three weeks after he was here to discuss the 'State of the City.' At the time, I asked Hizzoner flat-out: Is Chester Safe?

He responded emphatically that it was, but it has not been a good three weeks since.

In that span, the city has been rocked by four homicides. Of the 17 homicides that have occurred in the county so far in 2010, 10 of them have taken place in Chester. The numbers are up. That's double the number of homicides the city had incurred by May 1 last year.

In addition to the mayor, I was joined by longtime Chester police chaplain the Rev. Rocky Brown, and the city's community liaison Nicole Cogdell.

Brown, who had publicly called for a stronger police presence and a 'lockdown' on city streets, was glad to hear of the new measures being put in place. Cogdell noted the number of meetings being held with city residents in search of solutions, including formation of community watch groups. She's still looking for block captains.

You can read Rose Quinn's full story on the upcoming crackdown in Chester here. Both Linder and Whelan are indicating these are measures that have been used before.

No doubt city residents hope they will be successful.

I have heard from any number of them in the past week - lifetime city residents - who have told me they have never seen anything like the random gunfire that is currently engulfing the city.

Many describe feeling like prisoners in their homes, afraid to go out because of the gunfire that is becoming part of their everyday lives. Linder, who has seen his choice for police chief, Commissioner Joe Bail, come under fire from the community, certainly sounds like a man who has had enough. He's not ruling out further measures, including a state of emergency, but he makes clear he'd rather not have to go that route.

By the way, if you're wondering why the city is looking for outside help in attacking violence on city streets, Linder confirmed that most nights there are six officers out patrolling the city. That's out of a force of about 100 officers.

My thanks to Linder, Brown and Cogdell for joining us.

Linder has heard the impassioned pleas of city residents.

And he's calling in the cavalry.

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