McCarthy says crime down; cites 'perception' problem

June 12, 2012 (CHICAGO)

The strategy comes a day after a pregnant teenager was shot on the city's Southwest Side. The victim was shot in the shoulder. Her baby was unharmed.

Because of similar shootings and another violent weekend, police are considering a move to put more officers on the streets.

The police department, which has about 2,500 fewer officers than it had 10 years ago, will most likely put cops on overtime in the most violence-prone neighborhoods.

Another part of the summer strategy appears to be a public relations effort to convince city residents the police are winning the war on crime.

Chicago's top cop tried to reassure his breakfast audience at the Union League Club that his department had not lost control. Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy says citywide crime is down 10 percent.

"Would anybody believe me if I told you that shootings were down in the last two months, 10 weeks?" said Supt. McCarthy. "So we have a perception problem here, and I don't know how to overcome it except to keep communicating the facts."

But the dramatically higher numbers for shootings and homicides so far this year are facts that McCarthy could not deny. Still, he said the decision to deploy additional cops on overtime is more routine than reactive.

"It's something that we do everywhere," he said. "I did it in New York, I did it in Newark and we did it here last year. It's another thing that we do."

Last weekend, nine people were killed and nearly 50 wounded in shootings. The police union president says the numbers support his call for the budget-challenged city to hire more cops.

"You see what's going on every single weekend: you get 50 shootings, you get 30, even 20. That's just too many," said Michael Shields, president, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #7. "And this is all reflective on the low manpower levels in every single district."

Mayor Emanuel, who says the city has the money to pay for overtime police patrols, said he'll need more time to make good on his campaign promise to bring safety to violent neighborhoods.

"I'm only in year one and to be frank, I'm just getting started," said Emanuel. "Yes, there are communities and I will not accept and I will not rest until we bring safety to every part of the city."

The mayor added the voters will hold him accountable for his safer streets promise in three years.

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