Angry northwest side aldermen say a new Chicago Police Department "surge" strategy is draining their communities of critical resources.
"I absolutely agree that you send the police where the trouble is," said 41st Ward Alderman Anthony Napolitano. "But districts and residents shouldn't suffer because of it."
Napolitano said Wednesday night, 28 patrolmen and six tactical units were diverted from his neighborhood and re-assigned to duty on the West Side. After midnight, he said 29 patrolmen were moved as well.
"You're looking at 27 to 30% of the district is gone, to go be the police in someone else's district," Napolitano said.
In a statement, CPD said the surge is a new violence reduction strategy designed to deploy resources to districts with the greatest need with a goal of reducing murders and shootings.
"All districts throughout the city will have the opportunity to utilize additional resources in accordance with this new strategy," the statement said.
Napolitano says he finds it more than coincidental that the new strategy was implemented just as word began to surface that videos were circulating on social media of large gatherings of people in clear violation of stay-at-home orders. One of those videos, from Madison and Springfield, clearly shows a large crowd, obviously not practicing social distancing, with many appearing to taunt police who were trying to make them disperse.
"It actually makes my blood boil," Napolitano said. "You have 50 to 100 people clowning on the corner like it's summertime, and that we're not in the middle of a global pandemic where people are dying!"
Fellow Alderman Nicholas Sposato from the 38th Ward echoed Napolitano's complaints about the police redeployments.
"We have 30 officers and they're taking ten, they're taking one third of our resources," Sposato said. "Our concern is that the bad guys are going to come here because they know we lack resources."
Sposato said he was also troubled by the scenes of big gatherings of people.
"Somehow, some reason, they're not cooperating," he said. "And it's not even warm out yet---it's been cold and crappy weather!"
Napolitano, a former police officer, said he and fellow aldermen spoke to new CPD Superintendent David Brown Thursday.
"I like the superintendent, and I want to work with him," the alderman said. "His sympathy was to the point where he said, 'I blindsided you with this,' and it was good to hear that."
Chicago Police confirmed to NBC 5 that they've been busy breaking up crowds. Between March 25th and April 23rd, there have been 4,673 dispersal orders citywide, with 12 citations issued, and 17 arrests.
But CPD insists the surge policy is being implemented to fight crime and reduce violence---not just to break up crowds.
"The surge strategy is designed to be unpredictable and will be conducted at all hours of the day and in all parts of the city," the CPD statement said. "This strategy will not inhibit the department's ability to respond to calls for service in all 22 districts citywide."
But Napolitano said he doesn't want to see his neighborhood penalized in the process.
"It'll be a cold day in hell when I see that all of my police officers are sent someplace else and I'm supposed to just be ok with it," he said. "Just because we're not stepping over dead bodies here, doesn't mean we don't have other crime where we need police officers."