Chicago police create mobile summer patrol unit

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The Chicago Police Department will step up its patrols of Chicago's beaches this summer. (WLS)

The Chicago Police Department is creating new crime-fighting unit to police parks and beaches as the city braces for violence during the warmer months to come.

On Wednesday, Chicago police announced plans for a new patrol unit called the Summer Mobile Patrol. It will consist of officers who will operate during peak activity times.

People can expect to see them on bikes, ATVs and horses.

"It makes me happy," said resident Bethany Nelson. "Part of the reason I live in this area and pay the rent that I do is because every summer I get to walk on the lake shores."

There have already been some major problems at Chicago beaches.

On Memorial Day, there was a large brawl captured on video at North Avenue Beach. Police say it was fueled by underage drinking.

Huge crowds also left mountains of trash, and then just a week later, there were more fights on the beach.

Alcohol is prohibited on Chicago beaches, and Chicago police are enforcing that law, ticketing a group on North Avenue Beach Wednesday for having beer. Police say it's part of a crackdown for summer, trying to prevent outbreaks of violence like the brawl on North Avenue Beach Memorial Day.

The visible police presence is primarily from the 18th District, which includes North Avenue. But in the coming weeks, they will have help when they need it. The special Summer Mobile Patrol announced by the superintendent is designed to provide immediate help to areas around the city.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson unveiled specifics about the plan at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. Johnson said if they see things "popping up" around the city, the unit can spring into action.

Just minutes before the superintendent's news conference, a 16-year-old was shot in the South Shore neighborhood just blocks away.

The superintendent says the mobile squad is not a reaction to the Memorial Day brawl.

"This was in the works prior to that," he said.

Arminius Bucher walks his dog at Diversey Harbor and welcomes the patrol.

"We, as a local Lakeview East resident, would definitely appreciate the additional patrols," Bucher said.

Chicago police hope the team will complement other policing strategies they already have in place.

The department has also begun deploying teams of bike and foot officers to patrol neighborhoods and parks to promote what they're calling "positive community engagement."

"I think that there needs to be consistency so that everyone knows by their presence that yes they're out and about versus just saying that they are going to put more cops on ATVs," said Gary Bucher. "They really need to be seen."

The announcement comes after six people were fatally shot and 56 were wounded in Chicago over the Memorial Day weekend. Through May the city saw more than 240 homicides.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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