With shoot­ings surg­ing, CPD creates spe­cial unit to sup­press vi­o­lence

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY SAM CHARLES AND FRAN SPIELMAN Staff Re­porters

As mur­ders and shoot­ings con­tinue to surge in 2020, the Chicago Po­lice De­part­ment is cre­at­ing a new unit of of­fi­cers who will be dis­patched to es­pe­cially vi­o­lent ar­eas across the city.

While de­tails and plans are still be­ing fi­nal­ized, the CPD said the new unit will aim “to tackle vi­o­lent crime and cre­ate com­mu­nity part­ner­ships in some of our most chal­leng­ing ar­eas.”

Through the first six months of 2020, mur­ders in Chicago are up a stag­ger­ing 39% com­pared with the first half of 2019. The de­part­ment recorded 353 mur­ders as of July 5 — 99 more than it saw in the first half of 2019. Over­all, shoot­ing in­ci­dents are up 42% on the year, with 1,448 recorded in the first six months of 2020 com­pared with 1,018 in the first half of 2019.

The de­part­ment said the con­tin­ued op­er­a­tional re­or­ga­ni­za­tion — which has been in the works for months — is a means to em­power the CPD’s 22 district com­man­ders.

The new unit will be sep­a­rate from the Sum­mer Mo­bile Unit, an­other city­wide unit that re­sponds to vi­o­lence hot spots but only op­er­ates dur­ing the sum­mer months.

It wasn’t clear which of­fi­cers, or how many, will be as­signed to the new unit, though the de­part­ment said the unit’s cre­ation will af­fect of­fi­cers al­ready as­signed to gang, gun and sat­u­ra­tion teams that work out of the CPD’s five city­wide ar­eas. A CPD spokesman de­clined to an­swer ques­tions about the fu­ture of those teams.

Mayor Lori Light­foot ac­knowl­edged Wed­nes­day that rov­ing units have come and gone in the CPD and have been dis­banded af­ter be­com­ing overly ag­gres­sive and em­broiled in scan­dal.

But she’s con­fi­dent Supt. David Brown’s ver­sion will be dif­fer­ent.

“The su­per­in­ten­dent is very cog­nizant of the chal­lenges that ex­isted with th­ese groups be­fore and putting in, par­tic­u­larly, safe­guards to make sure there’s proper su­per­vi­sion and ac­count­abil­ity,” Light­foot said at an un­re­lated news con­fer­ence to pro­mote Taste of Chicago To-Go.

“It’s much smaller than it’s been be­fore. In times past, it surged to 400 [of­fi­cers] or more. We’re not go­ing that large. But we need the flex­i­bil­ity of a cen­tral­ized group.”

Light­foot dis­missed ques­tions about whether flood­ing one com­mu­nity with of­fi­cers will push vi­o­lence into other neigh­bor­hoods.

“No, no. Look, we’re al­ways look­ing at the data. And we’re gonna make strate­gic de­ploy­ments, based upon what we’re see­ing — both in terms of trends, but also what’s hap­pen­ing on the ground,” she said.

“We need to have the flex­i­bil­ity to add more re­sources when we see a hot spot flare up with gang con­flicts or some other kind of vi­o­lence driver. That’s the strate­gic im­por­tance of this group. But we need to make sure that we put the safe­guards in place so that we don’t have the kind of chal­lenges that we’ve had in years past.”

Brown talked about his pro­posal to cre­ate a “spe­cial­ized pa­trol unit” of uni­formed of­fi­cers to roam the city tamp­ing down vi­o­lent hot spots dur­ing his first face-to-face meet­ing with Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice Pres­i­dent John Catan­zara.

At the time, Brown called it a longterm re­place­ment for the “surge strat­egy” that in­fu­ri­ated some al­der­men by re­quir­ing of­fi­cers from lower crime dis­tricts to be re­as­signed for two hours at a time to higher crime dis­tricts on the South and West Sides.

Catan­zara said then he was “holding my breath” and “hop­ing it works,” but he was not op­ti­mistic.

On Wed­nes­day, Catan­zara was equally pes­simistic.

“I don’t nec­es­sar­ily know that an­other 2,000 or 10,000 po­lice­men would nec­es­sar­ily solve some of th­ese is­sues,” Catan­zara said.

“I guess at least they’re try­ing,” he added. “But the ex­cuse about flex­i­bil­ity and su­per­vi­sion, that’s all smoke and mir­rors. They have flex­i­bil­ity to move the units they’re now dis­band­ing any­where they want. They ob­vi­ously could in­crease su­per­vi­sion for any of the units they’re now dis­band­ing. It all sounds nice to the me­dia. But it’s not re­al­ity. It’s just a tagline that they’re adding to make it sound fancy and make it sound like some­thing new when it’s re­ally not.”

TYLER LARIVIERE/SUN-TIMES

Chicago po­lice of­fi­cers in­ves­ti­gate a shoot­ing near 61st and Car­pen­ter streets on the Fourth of July.

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