Chicago police to launch new citywide unit to deter crime amid spike in weekend gun violence

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago police are preparing to launch a new specialized unit to target violence-prone neighborhoods.

It comes as the city searches for ways to tamp down the shootings and murders that have rocked communities on the South and West Sides the past three weekends.

The details are still being worked out, and at this point, police can't say if the unit will be ready to hit the streets in time for this weekend.

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But Mayor Lori Lightfoot said it will be another important tool to give police flexibility in trying to deter violence.

"We need to have the flexibility to add more resources when we see a hotspot flare up with gang conflicts or some other kind of violence driver," Lightfoot said.

Police have had similar units in the past, but they were disbanded after allegations of aggressive behavior and corruption.

Police have not had permanent roving team since 2011.

"Well, I think that the superintendent is very cognizant of the challenges that existed with these groups before and putting in particular safeguards to make sure that there's proper supervision and accountability," Mayor Lightfoot said.

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Father Michael Pfleger, with St. Sabina Church, said the idea may work if police get out of their cars and engage with people on blocks.

He is also suggesting a program where Ring doorbells would be installed in violence-prone neighborhoods, paid for by the city or a corporate sponsor to deter crime. Pfleger said people would feel safer, and in return police could then use the video to solve crimes.

"We got to do something. You know, Chicago is out of control. It's a state of emergency. We've got to try everything and anything I think at this point," Pfleger said.

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A young woman named Tatonisha told ABC7 that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time Memorial Day, when she was shot multiple times. She said she had her doubts about whether doorbell cameras would be a deterrent.

"I don't really know now because nowadays they're killing kids so it's like they really don't care," Tatonisha said.

In a statement, Chicago police said the new mobile unit will impact the existing gun and gang teams working out of the five-area headquarters, suggesting that's where the officers would come from.

The mayor said the unit would be smaller than those in the past, which at one point surged to as many as 400 officers.
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