Chicago's police department announced a new policing strategy Friday as the city seeks new ways to combat summer violence.
The department revealed plans to expand their neighborhood policing initiative from three to seven districts, increase community engagement efforts and expand their Civil Rights Unit, which adds community liaisons who will offer perspective and support and advocate for residents.
"There is nothing more powerful than when someone shows up to problem solve or to advocate for someone that they can truly say that they understand," said Deputy Chief of Community Policing Angel Novalez. "I've been there. That's incredibly important to that person receiving that service."
The liaisons will be added to every district, Novalez said.
"That is someone at the ground level that will be the voice for those communities, they will identify those communities in the district and elevate their voices and create a relationship between us to the police," Novalez said.
Chicago saw a drop in the number of homicides in May compared with the same month last year and it ended with fewer killings than any Memorial Day weekend in a decade, Brown said Tuesday.
And while there have been more homicides so far this year — 252 compared with 240 for the same five-month period last year — May ended with 65 homicides compared with 84 during the same month in 2020.
Police dispatched more officers to the street for the holiday weekend, when gun crime typically spikes, and the department reported 32 people were shot, including four fatally. Last year, 49 people were shot, 10 of whom died.
Brown said the holiday weekend's drop in homicides came after Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a new strategy in which police, educators, library workers and others would be dispatched to 15 police beats on the West and South sides, where much of the city's violent crime occurs.
“That's a new approach ... that includes many departments out in the field during the hours where violence is peaking,” Brown said.
He also said that Violence Interrupters, a community group made up of former gang members and others, played a major role in reducing gun violence — something they couldn't do as effectively last year because the coronavirus pandemic prevented many of them from going out on the streets.
“Now they are back (and) they have stepped into the gap, and are out there until 2, 3, 4 in the morning,” he said.
After 2020, when the number of homicides and shootings spiked dramatically from the previous year, it seemed earlier this year that 2021 was going to be even deadlier. But Brown said he was encouraged by the trend in the latest statistics released by the department.
“It's had a significant impact early on,” Brown said. “This approach is a great launch for the rest of the summer.”