CHICAGO (CBS) — The founder and pastor of a megachurch in Ohio told President Donald Trump he has spoken to gang leaders in Chicago who want to work with the White House to reduce violent crime.
Dr. Darrell Scott, senior pastor of New Revival Center in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, was a guest of Trump’s at an African-American History Month meeting at the White House. He said he is a “black Trump supporter,” and claimed he was “contacted by some of the top gang thugs in Chicago for a sit-down.”
Taking a swipe at former President Obama, who began his political career as a community organizer in Chicago, Scott said the gangs “want to work with the administration … they believe in this administration; they didn’t believe in the prior administration. They told me this outta their mouths.”
“They reached out to me, because they’re associating me with you. They respect you. They believe in what you’re doing, and they want to have a sit-down about lowering that body count. So in a couple weeks, I’m going into Chicago,” Scott said. “I said we’ve got to lower that body count. We don’t want to talk about anything else; get that body count down, and they agreed that the principals that can do it – these are guys straight from the streets, no politicians, straight street guys – but they’re going to commit that if they lower that body count, we’ll come in and we’ll do some social programs.”
Trump said, “I think that’s a great idea, because Chicago is totally out of control.”
“If they’re not going to solve the problem — and what you’re doing is the right thing — then we’re going to solve the problem for them, because we’re going to have to do something about Chicago, because what’s happening in Chicago should not be happening in this country,” Trump added.
Chicago had more than 760 murders in 2016, the highest number in 19 years. The first month of 2017 saw that trend continue, with 51 homicides in January, one more than January 2016.
Scott said the gang members who reached out to him want to work with Trump.
“They see hope with you,” he said.
Trump said, “I think that’s great.”
Last week, Trump threatened in a Tweet that he would “send in the feds” if Chicago couldn’t get a grip on its violent crime issues.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said if Trump really wants to help Chicago address violent crime, he should stop talking about it, and actually provide federal resources — including increased federal prosecutions of gun crimes, more money for youth mentoring and jobs programs, and additional federal agents to assist Chicago police in fighting gangs and gun violence.
“Send more FBI, DEA, ATF agents. We don’t have to talk about it anymore. Just send them,” the mayor said Wednesday while meeting with young men taking part in the Becoming A Man mentoring program. “Invest in law enforcement with our Police Department. Every major city has to do more. Move more FBI, DEA, ATF. They do a great job. Use the ability to prosecute gun crimes at the federal level, and maximize that potential.”
The mayor said he has spoken repeatedly with the president, vice president, and the president’s chief of staff about getting more federal resources to address crime in Chicago — such as youth mentoring and summer jobs initiatives.
“In that sense, they are aware of what our requests are, and we will look forward to working with them on that,” he said. “Supporting our police officers, supporting our kids, investing in our neighborhoods and communities are key.”
Emanuel said he would like to see more federal funding for youth mentoring so the city can expand the BAM program from three years to five years. He said the program is currently open to young men in grades 8-10, and he wants it opened to students in 7th and 11th grades as well.
“I’m a father of three. It takes you 18 years, and sometimes longer, to be a role model, guidance; somebody that pushes, pulls, nurtures. These young men need all of that and more,” he said.
The mayor also said, while the city’s summer jobs program has expanded from 14,000 to 31,000 kids in recent years, federal support for the program has been reduced.
“Give these kids a summer job. Help give them not only a paycheck, but a résumé that goes with it, so the next time they apply for a job they can prove that they actually had. You know how hard it is yourselves, that first job,” he said.
Emanuel said he does not know why Trump seems so fixated on Chicago violence.
“He’s an investor in Chicago, so obviously he believes in it,” he said.
The mayor called Chicago a “fabulous city” and pointed to recent accomplishments like Major League Soccer choosing Soldier Field to host its 2017 All-Star Game, and Peoria-based Caterpillar choosing Chicago for its new global headquarters. Emanuel said the federal government needs to invest more in economic development in Chicago, and to in programs that will help its youth take advantage of that progress.
“We will never be the city we can be unless also these young men not only believe in themselves, but all that potential investment – that is happening, that does make Chicago a great city – that they also can participate,” he said.
Scott’s comments about violence in Chicago prompted an angry response from community activist Jedidiah Brown, who has taken part in anti-Trump protests, but also has been a frequent critic of the Chicago Police Department and the Emanuel administration. In a series of Tweets on Wednesday, he accused Scott of exaggerating his claims about speaking to top gang members in Chicago.
Brown said the people Scott spoke to are “no longer in streets” and don’t have any control over gangs that would allow them to decrease violent crime in Chicago.