Chicago police officers from several specialized units will focus on two districts – Englewood on the South Side and Harrison on the West Side -- that accounted for nearly one quarter of Chicago’s murders and shootings last year, Superintendent Garry McCarthy said today.
The units – including narcotics, gang enforcement and fugitive apprehension – will be working more aggressively to combat corner drug markets, curb gang violence and track down parole violators, McCarthy said.
After being appointed superintendent by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in May, McCarthy eliminated two other specialized units and sent those 500 officers to eight of the city’s most crime-ridden districts – Englewood and Harrison among them – to work beat patrols under the direction of the district commanders.
McCarthy said today the narcotics, gang enforcement, fugitive apprehension and other units will now be charged with targeting specific areas in the Englewood and Harrison districts prone to violence.
“Once we’ve shut down these locations … we are going to ensure that we hold those zones and do not return them to their previous state,” McCarthy said at a press conference at the Englewood district police station attended by Emanuel and police command staff. “This will be a systematic elimination of narcotics markets within each one of these districts.”
Other units such as the vice control unit will target businesses -- such as liquor stores and gas stations -- that aren't adequately licensed. In the Englewood district, police plan to implement a crackdown on its street gangs when its members are involved in violent crimes, McCarthy said, a strategy already utilized in Harrison.
Michael Shields, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the latest initiative for the two districts isn't much different than what the department has done before.
"Until the manpower issue is truly addressed by hiring more Chicago police officers, we are putting a Band-Aid on crime," Shields said.
Late last month McCarthy noted that even though murders fell slightly last year in Chicago compared with the previous year, within the Englewood district murders rose 40 percent and shootings 15 percent. The department has yet to release its final statistics for 2011.
"While the other parts of the city were seeing the reduction in shootings, that wasn't true for these two (districts)," Emanuel said. "Other parts of the city were seeing a reduction in homicides. That wasn't true for these two parts. Now, you can stand there, take the data and do nothing, or concentrate...(the specialized units) in a very specific way."
In light of the climb in murders and shootings in the Englewood district, McCarthy removed its commander, Anthony Carothers, who is now assigned as the executive officer to Harrison Area Deputy Chief Eddie Johnson.
Replacing Carothers, the brother of convicted former 29th Ward Ald. Isaac Carothers, as the Englewood commander will be Leo Schmitz, former commander of the gang enforcement unit.
Despite the concentration of resources in the Englewood and Harrison neighborhoods, McCarthy noted "there's no part of the city that's not going to have narcotics investigations. There's no part of the city that's not going to have gang investigations."
The department’s goal to reduce crime in Englewood and Harrison is also contingent on “a collaborative community-based initiative” in which clergy and community organizations will support the crime-fighting efforts, McCarthy said.
“This is not something that is going to go away,” he said.” We are going to relentlessly pursue reducing violence in these two districts for the people who live (there) because they’ve suffered too long.”