Crime a PR Nightmare for Chicago

Police say crime is down, but residents maintain it's their biggest concern

By Charlie Wojciechowski
|  Tuesday, Aug 3, 2010  |  Updated 6:30 PM CDT
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Mayor Richard Daley and police Supt. Jody Weis announce stepped-up police measures while announcing that crime statistics are actually down.

Mayor Richard Daley and police Supt. Jody Weis announce stepped-up police measures while announcing that crime statistics are actually down.

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With three police officers killed in the last two months and headlines detailing shooting after shooting, the city is fighting a public relations battle.

While Chicago police say statistics indicate crime is down, residents still say it's their biggest concern.

Supt. Jody Weis on Tuesday pointed out that there were 57 homicides in July of 2009, 16 more than this year.  Still, while crime has decreased in each of the past 19 months, he admits more needs to be done.

Weis attributes the negative perception to the 24 hour news cycle, and stood with Mayor Richard Daley, Sheriff Tom Dart and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez in announcing new initiatives to combat that perception.

The city will accelerate the use of $9 million in stimulus funds to hire 100 additional police officers.  Another 268 desk officers will be transferred back to street patrols.

"They're doing a good job," Daley said Tuesday.  "Just see how many seizures of guns they've taken place, and this is not a sweep or anything.  They do this on a regular basis."

They mayor pointed to cooperative efforts with the FBI and other agencies like Operation Return to Owner,  which resulted in more than a hundred arrests and the seizure of dozens of guns.

The city will also expand its predictive policing program, which uses statistical analysis to constantly re-deploy police where they are needed.

"Just think, if we can get 60 [or] 70 percent accuracy.  We look at a lot of the shootings right now, they are not taking place in some of the deployment zones, which means we're nailing it," Weis said.  "We are putting our officers where they need to be and that is a huge, huge step."

The department is also looking to expand alternative programs, like street prayers, which get members of the community involved. 

"We saw a tremendous change in our community.  We saw that crime went down.  We saw that people were more involved and also shared with us their feelings and the things that they were really having the desire to do, and one of the major cries was simply employment," said Apostle John T. Abercrombie with Truth and Deliverance Ministries.

But perhaps even more important than the new measures, is the continued call for more help from the public.  Daley said people in the community must come forward and cooperate with police in their investigations of violent crimes.

Daley said he's frustrated by victims who refuse to tell police about their attackers, even when they know who they are.

In the future, the department's Office of News Affairs may start using phrases like "uncooperative witnesses" in its press releases.

"We have to find a way to break this cycle," Daley said.

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