Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Wednesday raised the possibility of bringing in state troopers or even the Illinois National Guard to help Chicago combat a recent increase in violent crime -- an offer that Mayor Richard Daley didn't know was coming.
Appearing at signing ceremony for a bill that toughens the penalty for adults who provide guns to minors, Blagojevich said "violent crime in the city of Chicago is out of control."
"I'm offering resources of the state to the city to work in a constructive way with Mayor Daley to do everything we can possibly do to help ... stop this violence," said the governor.
Blagojevich said Daley had not asked for help and he had not talked to the mayor about offering it, adding he would call Daley after he met later in the day with the state police, National Guard and others.
Daley's office said the mayor did not know anything about Blagojevich's comments and did not know he was going to make them.
"The mayor welcomes partnerships, not just on this issue but on a variety of issues," said spokeswoman Jody Kawada. "Beyond that, it is difficult to comment because we don't have any facts."
And police department spokeswoman Monique Bond said they learned of the comments after Blagojevich made them as well, and said it was too soon to comment.
But Bond took issue with the governor's contention that crime is "out of control" in Chicago.
In fact, she said if the current murder rate holds in the city, 2008 may end with fewer than 500 homicides and that it is expected to be one of the least deadly years in the city in the last 40 years.
The governor's comments come at a time when violent crime has spiked in Chicago. This spring, for example, nine people were killed in 36 shootings during a weekend and Chicago Public Schools officials say more than two dozen students have been killed by gunfire since last September.
On Wednesday, Superintendent Jody Weis was grilled by members of a city council committee, who complained both about rising crime and statistics that suggested to them that the police department wasn't doing enough to stop it.
They also come as the governor tries to find support for a massive statewide construction program that would be funded by expanded casino gambling. So far, Daley has refused to go along because he objects to the amount Blagojevich wants to charge Chicago to run a downtown casino.
Blagojevich raised that issue as he discussed the possibility of state aid with Chicago's crime problem.
"We need help in that legislative process and the mayor could be a big help in this in getting the House Democratic leadership to pass that big capital program or versions of it," the governor said.
Blagojevich's offer, whether or not it comes to anything, also puts him in the position of trying to help on an issue dominating the news in Chicago.
Blagojevich said it is far more likely that state troopers would be used than guardsmen. In fact, his office moved quickly after the governor's comments to stress in a news release that Blagojevich was not considering bringing in National Guard troops to the city.
"The only way the National Guard would be involved, if they are involved, is with the use of tactical helicopters that are currently used in narcotics operations," spokesman Lucio Guerrero said in a prepared statement.
Blagojevich had few details, but suggested that one possibility would be to assign state troopers to areas of the city with lower crime rates, freeing Chicago police officers for areas where there is more crime.
"Maybe we can play a role in providing more manpower so that the mayor doesn't have to make that choice between taking a police from, let's say the North Side, and putting that police officer on the street on the South Side," he said.
He also suggested that retired Chicago police officers and state troopers could be hired on a temporary basis to help out during the summer months when the violent crime rate typically climbs.