Chicago’s violence is an old problem, and the latest police plan to fight it is a new version of an old solution, a citywide unit tasked with flooding crime-plagued neighborhoods with cops. Superintendent David Brown’s Community Safety Team reworks a program that past leaders have credited with tamping down the surges of violence that always seem to return, the Chicago Tribune reports. Some academics lend credence to versions of this approach, saying research shows “hot spots policing” can ease violence, at least temporarily. The teams are potentially a politically savvy tactic in that they allow Brown to send officers to tough neighborhoods without reallocating beat cops from safer wards whose aldermen might object to losing police. Still, the police department has a well-established history of loosely supervising cops and failing to root out abuse and misconduct, and members of at least one past special unit committed serious crimes.
The new unit is also ramping up amid months of protests over police brutality that have highlighted long-running tensions between cops and many minorities. As protesters call for new ways to address violence that don’t involve cops, the city is poised to attack the problem again with police. Karen Sheley of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois said reform advocates fear serious uses of force by police deployed to trouble spots and worry about tactics such as aggressive street stops and searches. “Those incidents, they build up too. It can really create a lot of damage,” she said. “We don’t need that right now.” Brown’s move is a central element of his attempt to slow runaway violent crime. As of July 26, homicides had jumped 52 percent to 433 in 2020 compared with last year. Shootings were up 48 percent. The unit’s 300 officers will help with community relations programs such as food drives, prayer circles, and peace marches.