A Catholic priest has taken it upon himself to address Chicago’s rampant violence by setting bounties on killers’ heads.
In a Jan. 1 “60 Minutes” profile, Chicago’s Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church on the South Side told reporters that he is no longer looking for a savior to end the city’s homicides. Instead, he is inspiring others to report people and information to deliver justice to the victims of the senseless murders.
“When a child is shot and killed in this city, on the South Side, in particular, and there’s no idea of who may have done it, I put a $5,000 bounty on the head,” Pfleger tells “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker. “We’ve given out about 24 rewards over the last 10 years. I have 12 out right now.”
The city of Chicago has historically been plagued by high rates of violence stemming from systematic housing discrimination, closing schools, gang activity and high unemployment. But 2016 was one of worst years in nearly two decades. At last count, there were 762 murders, 3,550 shooting incidents and 4,331 shooting victims, according to ABC 7 Chicago.
These startling numbers come at a time when police activity has reportedly been on the decline. New data collected in this recent “60 Minutes” report show that Chicago police are making fewer stops as crime and violence surge.
In August of 2015, cops stopped and questioned 49,257 people, according to the report. However, by August of 2016, those stops dropped to 8,859. That’s an 80 percent decrease. At the same time, arrests were off by a third, from just over 10,000 to 6,900. Critics blame the low morale among police officers on the Black Lives Matter movement.
The report also posited that the violence surged in the city after the 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
“I’ve never seen there to be a combination of anger, distrust and a feeling like communities have been abandoned,” said Pfleger, who has been an activist in the city for 41 years. He told “60 Minutes” that, in all those years, he has never seen deadly violence as bad as this.