Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says his crime-fighting strategy is working so well, it’s about to expand.
"It’s about giving the parents and communities in the area a level of safety and security," Emanuel said Thursday. "It’s good for the neighborhood, but it’s also good for the city as a whole."
Earlier this year, the Chicago Police Department designated 20 "impact zones," areas which comprise just 3 percent of the city, but account for more than 20 percent of Chicago’s violent crime. The impact zones were saturated with officers, and one of them, in the Gresham district, received 24 newly-sworn officers walking foot patrols overnight.
It’s a strategy which Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy say is working so well, they are about to expand the foot patrols to a second zone, beginning next week.
"We’re down 42 percent over last year, which is 65 less murders than we had last year," said McCarthy. In the Gresham neighborhood, which received the first foot patrol experiment, he said "we’re down about 10 shootings for the year, and two or three murders at this point."
Emanuel said the impact zone strategy is working citywide.
"While overall homicides are down 42 percent, in the strategic impact zones, they’re 50 percent greater," he said. "Shootings citywide down 1717, about 29 percent, but in the impact zones they’re double that."
Watching McCarthy and Emanuel walk the neighborhood streets, Gresham resident Catana Jackson said she was grateful for the attention her neighborhood is getting.
"You don’t hear as much shooting any more," she said. "I think the crime rate has dropped in the neighborhood and you feel safer walking the street."
"It had gotten so bad that at six o’clock at night I was a prisoner in my own house. As soon as darkness hit I wasn’t coming out," she added.
Wearing a White Sox hat and wielding an iPad, fellow resident Pratt Smith agreed that the foot patrols have made a difference.
"You couldn’t even walk the streets," he said. "It was just terrible, and with these guys around, everyone feels safe."
The foot patrols are comprised of the Chicago Police Department’s greenest officers, brand new patrolmen just graduated from the academy and 12 weeks of practical field training. McCarthy stressed they are not alone.
"We still have experienced officers working in the zones at the same time, to support them," he said.
Still, such saturations of manpower are expensive. Emanuel says he has budgeted for the overtime, but residents say they’re sure it won’t last forever. Besides, says Smith, the neighborhood needs to step up.
"We need to learn how to deal with each other better," he said. "Because we’re killing each other. And it’s not the mayor’s fault. It’s not the police’s fault. It’s our own fault."