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Kirk, Rush tour violence-plagued neighborhood

Published: Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 9:21 p.m. CDT

CHICAGO – Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush toured Chicago's violence-prone Englewood neighborhood Thursday, saying afterward they will work together to solve the community's problem.

However, there appeared to be some difference between the pair on how to accomplish that, with Kirk emphasizing fighting crime and Rush pointing to the need for economic development.

According to Kirk, the violence in the neighborhood must be reduced before businesses will feel comfortable locating there.

"I don't see, with the kind of headlines we've been getting, how we can attract a significant investment," Kirk said afterward.

As the two lawmakers toured Englewood, a 23-year-old man was wounded by gunfire near a school.

Students of Bass Elementary School were on the playground when the man was shot. The children, none of whom were harmed, were immediately taken inside the school.

The victim was listed in stable condition with gunshot wounds to his leg and buttocks.

After learning of the shooting, Rush said that is part of living in Englewood.

"It's not a shock. This happens whether or not I'm in the neighborhood, whether or not Sen. Kirk is in the neighborhood," he said.

The two lawmakers said they will promote legislation that would provide tax breaks for investment in blighted areas.

"While we may not agree on every idea, we both know that any law enforcement strategy needs effective community-based programs and economic growth plans to succeed," they said in a joint statement. "We are united in our efforts to save lives and stop the violence, and we will continue to work together until we succeed."

The tour of Englewood was a result of harsh criticism the Republican senator received earlier this year when he called for the arrest of up to 18,000 Gangster Disciple members.

Rush, a Chicago Democrat, dismissed Kirk's proposal as a simplistic "white boy" solution to a complex problem.

Earlier this month, Kirk said he went on a ride-along with police through Chicago's South Side as part of his pledge to more fully understand the link between gangs and violence.

Illinois' junior senator also said he is supporting legislation in Washington to boost funding devoted to fighting gang-related crime, including by allowing the Department of Justice to hire more prosecutors. Kirk also wants the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to appoint an anti-gang coordinator for Illinois, which Kirk says has the highest number of gang members per capita in the nation.

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