As part of a year-long series of reports on the Windy City’s trend-bucking high homicide rate, the Chicago Tribune reports that police are using a flood-the-zone strategy that appears to be making a difference. On a recent Friday night, for example, 50 squad cars roared into two neighborhoods experiencing street gang violence. Cops patted down anyone suspicious, pulled over cars for minor infractions, and illuminated block after block with squad car lights–intimidating gangs and smothering crime.
Since June 2003, these officers, members of the Targeted Response Unit, have gone from neighborhood to neighborhood, taking over gang turf when conflicts flare. Some residents welcome the police; others see it as an intrusion. Police say the strategy is working. After ranking as America’s murder capital for two of the last three years, Chicago this year trails New York and Los Angeles. Six months into 2004, a police official lauded the 160-officer unit as the primary reason the murder count is down 25 percent from 2003, with shootings down 44 percent.