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Chicago's Black Residents Divided Over Mayor Candidates, Crime

As Brandi Johnson left a restaurant in a center of Black culture on Chicago’s South Side, she did not hesitate before naming the issue that would determine her vote for the city’s mayor: crime. Her ideas for addressing the problem came from her experiences growing up in Englewood, a violence-plagued neighborhood. A new mayor should see that Chicago police officers receive more training to help them de-escalate situations, she said. He should expand after-school programs, creating an outlet for teenagers who have little to do but get into trouble. Johnson, a 29-year-old private security officer, has not decided which of the two candidates for mayor will get her vote.

Her conundrum is a common one among Black voters where violent crime is most concentrated, especially in neighborhoods on the South and West Sides, reports the New York Times. These voters are being aggressively wooed with starkly different appeals by the candidates who made the April runoff. Paul Vallas, a former schools executive, is campaigning largely on a pro-police law-and-order message. Brandon Johnson, a county commissioner, has touted a plan that views crime as a problem with solutions that go well beyond policing. In a city with roughly equal numbers of white, Black and Hispanic residents, many Blacks say their votes are up for grabs. Both candidates have promised to tamp down crime and make the city safer. Vallas frames crime as an fundamental threat to a “city in crisis.” He has vowed to hire thousands more police officers. Johnson has called for expanding the detective ranks, opening more mental health clinics and encouraging partnerships between communities and law enforcement to prevent crime. Many residents said they did not support the idea of reducing police funding, adding that they wanted more police presence in their neighborhoods, not less. Some favored redirecting part of the nearly $2 billion annual police budget in Chicago to mental health programs, or increasing training for police officers to engage with residents and stop racial profiling.

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