April 26, 2010 -- Bringing rifle toting units of the National Guard into the streets of Chicago is not the solution to city's surge in murders, experts said today.
"It's a very bad idea," said Bill Bratton, the former police commissioner of both Los Angeles and New York City. "The National Guard is that last thing you want in a situation of combating violence in national cities."
Bratton and others recoiled at the request made Sunday by Chicago Reps. John Fritchey and LaShawn Ford, both Democrats, that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn deploy the Illinois National Guard to deal with the violence.
So far this year there have been 113 murders reported homicides, according to Chicago police statistics.
During that same period New York has had 139 murders and Los Angeles recorded 199, although both cities have larger populations.
The number of casualties Chicago has so far this year is only slightly higher than last year at this time, 109, and less than the 134 for the first four months of 2008.
Jim Wagner, former president of the Chicago Crime Commission, and other critics said that while they aren't sure what is motivating Fritchey and Ford to have such an extreme reaction, they think that it has to do not with the rate of casualties, but who those casualties are.
"It's not the number of murders, it's the type of people getting murdered," said Wagner. "We had recent incidents where very young children were caught in the gunfire, which were just unfortunate circumstances, not part of anything other than being in the wrong place. That's what I think has brought this about."
Quinn said today that he would not send in the National Guard unless Chicago Mayor Richard Daley asked for the guard. Daley in a brief news conference today didn't rule it out, but reacted coolly to the idea.
Fritchey argued that bringing in the National Guard is appropriate and compared the city's violence with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
National Guard Not Welcome in Chicago as Cops, Experts Say
"The unfortunate reality is that we have another war that is just as deadly taking place right in our backyard," said Fritchey. "Is this a drastic call to action? Of course it is. But is it warranted when we are losing residents to gun violence at such an alarming rate? Without question."
"If we can bring them in to help fill sandbags for flooding or help with tornado debris, we can bring them in to save lives," said Fritchey at a press conference.
Bratton disagrees. "The National Guard is great in national disasters or signficant urban unrest, but this is a local law enforcement problem," he said.
"It's a bad idea," agreed Wagner, a retired FBI agent. "I don't think we want them patrolling the streets with their rifles," said Wagner.
Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis did not respond to messages left by ABCNews.com, but told ABC News' Chicago affiliate WLS that he does not want to see the National Guard on the streets of Chicago.
"As much as I'd like to have as much help as possible I don't think that mixing the national guard with local enforcement is the best solution," said Weis. "You don't want the military doing law enforcement in an urban state. It will become a police state."
Weis has also vowed to significantly increase police presence in the most crime-ridden areas of the city.
Bratton, who pioneered the renewed emphasis on community police and the police review tactic known as "Comstat" to identify areas that need more cops, said Weis' plan is is the best method.
"That's tried and true American police tactics and it's the same thing that worked in L.A. and in N.Y. and in all likelihood will work in Chicago too," said Bratton.
Prof. Dennis Rosenbaum, a criminologist with the University of Illinois at Chicago, said that there might also be legal problems with the National Guard hitting the streets.
"They are just not trained properly to deal with this type of urban engagement," Rosenbaum said. "The National Guard is trained primarily for the theater where there is war and military units to respond to enemies."
"There are not enemies here necessarily. They're civilians and they are not trained in what the local police are trained in, like civil liberties," he said. "They don't understand reasonable search and seizure or reading people their Miranda rights."
"There are likely to be complaints and lots of problems."