Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is expected to reassign 450 gang crimes officers in a major initiative to reduce the city’s alarming number of homicides, the Chicago Tribune says. A new 100-officer “immediate response” unit will provide saturation patrols in areas where gang turf wars and other mayhem threatens to erupt.
The boundaries of the department’s 279 beats are expected to go virtually unchanged despite calls from some community leaders for a wholesale overhaul that would shift regular patrol officers from low-crime areas to more dangerous ones.
Under the new approach, gang crimes specialists now spread among the department’s 25 districts would be concentrated in five police “areas”–much larger geographical jurisdictions–in a strategy designed to get them to violent hot spots more efficiently and in greater numbers.
Gangs and their participation in the drug trade are the main source of the disturbing homicide numbers.
Through May, Chicago’s total of 236 homicides was 11 percent higher than the comparable period of 2002. A recent spike in violence pushed Chicago past the nation’s two largest cities, New York and Los Angeles, in the number of killings. As of Monday, Chicago was seven homicides ahead of last year’s pace. Although New York has nearly three times the population of Chicago, and L.A. has 800,000 more residents, Chicago has had close to the same number of murders as the two cities in recent years. In 2001, Chicago had the most murders of any city in the country.
Since a citywide Gang Crimes Unit was disbanded several years ago, in Chicago, intelligence efforts have faltered, a Fraternal Order of Police officer said. The unit was disbanded after investigators discovered that one of its members operated a drug ring in concert with gang members.