A top Chicago Police Department official says a violence response project is helping in two of the city's most troubled districts.
There is a police blueprint for putting the brakes on this year's rapid increase in shootings and killings. It is called the 7-11 Initiative, a violence-reduction program that went into effect last year in the 7th and 1th police districts on the South and West sides.
Those two districts produced 25 percent of the violent crime in Chicago, and after months of concentrated police efforts in 7 and 11, there are some positive results.
As uniform police respond to each shooting and murder in the Englewood or "K Town" districts, the 7-11 initiative may not be visible because there aren't necessarily more patrols in those districts. The 7-11 project calls for police to plug in additional behind-the-scenes officers.
"The support units, such as the narcotics section, gang intel, gang invest, troubled buildings unit, everyone basically deploys people into the 11th District on a daily basis," said Deputy Chief John Escalante, Chicago Police North Area. "And everyone is accountable to what they are doing to help Commander Washington and the community there. So there is a huge increase in terms of the presence of police officers, not necessarily assigned to 11, but the support units assigned there every day."
In the 11th District so far this year homicides are down, from 21 by this date last year, to 14 so far this year.
Police officials attribute much of that to aggressive drug investigations: So far this year in the 11th District the narcotics unit has executed 35 search warrants, made 340 arrests, seized 22 guns and 22 cars, $36,000 in cash and narcotics with an estimated street value of $600,000.
"For years we've tried to figure out how to eliminate the drug trade in the 11th District, and we've tried a lot of different strategies, but we are out there," said Escalante.
Coming up tonight at 10 p.m. in our I-Team report: Open drug deals caught on tape in the 11th District and one man's crusade to stop them with a secret weapon that he keeps hidden behind the blinds on the second floor of his home.
Chicago police admit they are continually challenged by the number of drug dealers who step in and take over street sales and act as gang enforcers even after arrests. Now, in addition to the behind-the-scenes and intelligence efforts, Chicago police plan to beef up patrol units in high-crime districts by recruiting officers to work overtime.