By Timothy Mclaughlin
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled an expanded student mentorship program on Thursday with the aim of keeping at-risk youth off the streets and away from gangs in a city that is struggling against a wave of violence.
Over 500 people have been killed so far this year in the United States' third-largest city, more than in New York and Los Angeles combined. The police department is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice as a result of numerous high-profile incidents including the killing of a black teenager by a white police officer in 2014.
The mentorship program, building on Emanuel's past efforts, will target some 7,200 middle school and high school students from 20 of the city's most violent neighborhoods.
"They are on the doorstep of adulthood, and they are among the most at-risk of becoming crime victims or perpetrators," Emanuel said in a speech at Malcolm X College.
Speaking to politicians, community leaders and activists, he said the plan would cost $36 million over three years. Half of the money will come from the city of Chicago, the other half from donors, companies and philanthropies, he said.
Emanuel said half of the private-sector money has already been raised through donations from companies including energy firm Exelon Corp and Bank of America Corp.
Student mentors will be drawn from across Chicago and Emanuel said he plans to call on private companies to encourage their employees to participate.
His remarks came as the city and its police are struggling to rebuild community relations.
On Wednesday, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said another 970 police officers would be hired over the next two years.
"They want more police on the street who know and respect the residents of their neighborhoods," Emanuel said on Thursday.
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)