More Chicago police to hit the streets

April 4, 2008 4:40:51 PM PDT
Starting at 8 p.m. Friday, Chicago's 25 district police commanders will be on the job, overnight, as well as Saturday and Sunday night.The officers will monitor crime in the city on the heels of a series of shootings over the last two weeks, most involving the deaths of Chicago public school students.

Fifty officers have been pulled from desk duty to add to the police presence. But will it make a difference?

Hope was tentative at one Chicago high school Friday.

"In Abbott Park, there are sections where if it is a very nice day, they will sit and wait for the kids to get out of school and then prey on them when they come by to either sell something or [to commit] acts of violence," said Harlan High School Principal Reggie Evans.

Evans is in his second year as principal of Harlan. Since a shooting incident inside the school in 2006, he says security has improved. But with gang and drug activity at the nearby CTA and gas stations, what he needs is police on campus from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., the critical period when school lets out, police shifts often change, and bad things happen.

"When you look at what has happened, it's just random. Most of the kids that are getting hurt are the ones who are going to school trying to do the right things," Principal Evans said.

Chicago police say they are trying to do the right things, but scheduling challenges have implications for unions and budgets.

"We try to work with the schools as far their dismissal times and our shift changes to try to come to a happy medium. It is not very easy for the police department to change shifts," said Chicago Police Department spokesperson Monique Bond.

With its reputation as a debating powerhouse and a claim to have the most graduates on the Cook County bench, Harlan has the kind of pride that a city craves. But to activists, saddened by the recent death of shooting victims Chavez Clark and others, poor Chicago Public Schools policy is adding to the violence.

"We believe if Martin Luther King were alive today, he would be standing in front of a CPS building to condemn the recent school closures and pointing out how they have caused increased violence in our schools," said Pastor Robin Hood of Clergy Committed to the Community.

Whatever the causes, and the debates, Principal Reggie Evans welcomes the increased police presence over the weekend.

The anti-violence group Ceasefire, which is part of the Clergy Committed to the Community organization, says children at troubled schools have grown up around violence. By age 20, approximately 40 to 70 percent of them have witnessed a shooting personally.


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