A number of times over the years there have been proposals to close stations and the proposals have always met with resistance. Such was the case last fall when Mayor Rahm Emanuel and then new police Supt. Garry McCarthy announced future closings.
This time it will happen. The Prairie District station Saturday night will go dark and close down. It's part of a consolidation plan that has been in the works and announced Saturday afternoon by McCarthy. Closing Prairie as well as the 19th District at Belmont and Western will save about $10 million a year, but will, more importantly, he says, put more cops on the street.
"This is critical to setting up the department in a fashion that makes it the most efficient crime-fighting machine we can have," McCarthy said. "Eliminating layers, flattening out the bureaucracy, putting more officers on the street, holding them accountable is long-term solutions we're looking for, not short term."
The 21st district, prairie, closes at midnight Saturday. The nearby Second District absorbs most of its policing. The 19th District closes and is folded into the Town Hall District and next fall, the Wood District will close.
Anne Shaw who has led the fight to keep the Wood District station open believes its closure will hurt response time and fuel the perception of an unsafe neighborhood.
"To have an abandoned building there is a problem," Shaw said. "If people perceive that, they're not going to come into this area to invest. I've already talked to people who say when that station closes, I'm out of here."
In addition to the district closings, the department is also consolidating its detective division. They're currently housed at five area centers. Effective tomorrow the detectives at areas 4 and 5 move into the remaining three.
The Fraternal Order of Police argues the consolidation hurts the neighborhood connection to crime solving.
"These are generations of people who know these local detectives and now those detectives are moving to different neighborhoods not accessible to them," said FOP President Mike Shields.
Consolidation, McCarthy said, is not coming without careful thought. "It's not the buildings that protect the public," McCarthy said. "It's the officers, and by having more officers in those areas, we'll have a better delivery of service."