Activists to follow cops into dangerous neighborhoods

January 23, 2012 2:59:36 PM PST
The Chicago Police Department will send more officers into two of the city's most violent neighborhoods and once they've cracked down on crime, community activists will follow.

Violence in two police districts -- Englewood on the South Side and Harrison on the West Side --accounts for almost a quarter of all of Chicago's murders and shootings. On Monday Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy announced plans to target gang members and drug members in those areas.

"Just because it happens in Englewood doesn't mean it doesn't matter; Just because it happens in Garfield it doesn't matter. It does matter and the city is going to come to bear on it," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

The plan is to put more officers -- 140 to 150 of them -- in those two districts -- specifically narcotics and gang crime specialists who will work fulltime in those districts. They won't just parachute in for a periodic sweep and then go somewhere else.

"Our units have not had geographic accountability, and they would bounce around the city as those other units would do. Geographic accountability and long term change is what were looking for here. Not just putting a band aid on the problem and walking away," Gary McCarthy.

The initial steps would have narcotics and gang teams putting the squeeze on neighborhoods where there's a lot of drug trafficking -- and make that presence block by block. They'll be followed by social service and faith-based organizations.

"We will work hard to reduce crime, but we cannot do it alone. This will be a collaborative, community-based initiative, where our enforcement efforts are supported by various community components. But these are the right steps to take," said McCarthy.

"A police presence and a crackdown on crime is part of it, but to give the children and families hope here, it takes a lot more. That's why social service agencies have to be involved here," Anne Barclay, Children's Home and Aid, said.

"What does this family need? What does this block need, and how do we sequester our resources - limited resources that we have - to be a better benefit," Bishop James Dukes, Englewood clergy spokesman, said.

High unemployment and high drop-out rates are found in both districts, as are a large number of ex-offenders and an abundance of mental health issues.

"This is not a sprint. It's a marathon," McCarthy said.

The Englewood district has a new commander: Leo Schmitz, who was the commander of the gang enforcement division. Both the Englewood and Harrison districts will have a bump up in the number of police officers.

Part of this new strategy also includes identifying ex-offenders who are most likely to get in trouble again, and to lean on gang leaders so that when a gang member commits a serious crime, the whole gang feels the pressure.