A plan to have a more visible Chicago police presence in downtown has sparked conversation on both sides, with officials saying there will still be adequate officers to protect neighborhoods, while critics argue that the move sends the message that downtown is more important than other areas of the city.
The plan, laid out in police memos obtained by NBC, indicate that officers will be moved during daytime shifts into the downtown area.
“While on post, department members will be highly visible,” one of the memos reads. “Vehicles will have their Mars lights activated for the duration of their tour of duty.”
Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th Ward) says the move sends the message that stopping crime in downtown is more important than addressing crime in the city’s neighborhoods.
“It’s absolutely infuriating,” he said. “I think it absolutely sends the message that focusing on creating the perception of safety is for downtown only. Every neighborhood deserves safe neighborhoods.”
Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward), whose ward includes parts of Michigan Avenue, says that moving officers is necessary, and is nothing new.
“Everyone knows what happened on Aug. 10 with rioting and looting downtown,” he said. “Clearly there is a need for extra officers downtown, and if they have to pull temporarily from outlying areas, it’s the right thing to do.”
Chicago police officials also insist that the plan will not shortchange neighborhoods, and that some officers who have been pulled into downtown duties have already been sent back to their respective districts.
According to CPD Spokesman Tom Ahern, 48% of officers deployed to the downtown business district following unrest over the summer have been sent back.
“Superintendent (David) Brown has repeatedly expressed and demonstrated CPD’s commitment to our neighborhoods and residents,” Ahern said in a statement. “To imply that the safety and protection of the downtown districts is of higher importance than any of our other neighborhoods throughout Chicago is categorically false.”
Ahern also emphasized that the city’s Community Safety Team and Summer Mobile Patrol are still available for use in neighborhoods, with approximately 750 officers designated to “supplement manpower in police districts that may need additional support at any given time.”