Mayor: City to do more to fight violence after bloody weekend
By FRANK MAIN and FRAN SPIELMAN Staff Reporters March 19, 2012 3:10PM
Police Supt. Garry F. McCarthy and command personnel Dean Andrews, Deputy Chief in the Bureau of Detectives, discussed weekend murders and shootings at Police Headquarters, 35th & Michigan Monday March 19, 2012. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
Updated: April 21, 2012 8:09AM
Responding to a bloodbath of violence over the weekend, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Monday that he’s seeing an “uptick” in gang conflicts — and will soon provide beat cops with better information about gangs to stop retaliatory shootings.
Gangs were responsible for almost all of the 37 shootings and nine murders from Friday through Sunday, McCarthy said. When he took over as superintendent almost a year ago, gangs represented about half the firearm violence, but now they’re to blame for more than 80 percent of it, McCarthy said.
“They are splintering off into smaller gang factions and it’s getting more difficult for us to track and predict what’s going to happen next,” he said.
McCarthy said he’s launching “gang audits” in each of the city’s police districts. One audit is going on in the Chicago Lawn district on the Southwest Side where Latino gangs have been warring.
Beat cops and gang officers have been meeting over maps to chart the turf and membership of gangs in the district, McCarthy said. That information will be merged with gang intelligence from the police department’s existing databases, he said.
The detailed information about gang membership will be available to officers in their beat cars, McCarthy said.
“What we haven’t done well enough is get in front of the retaliatory shootings,” he said.
McCarthy spoke to reporters about an hour after Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a terse statement about his concern over the recent spate of shootings.
“The violence this past weekend is unacceptable to me and every law-abiding Chicago resident,” Emanuel said. “ Our streets belong to the families and children of our city, not to the gangs and gangbangers.
“The violence this weekend underscores that Chicago has a unique gang problem, and I have discussed with Superintendent McCarthy a citywide anti-gang strategy similar to the successful strategy CPD recently used with the Maniac Latin Disciples.”
Chicago Police officers arrested more than 1,800 members of the Maniac Latin Disciples gang between June and the end of February after McCarthy declared war on them for shooting and wounding two young girls by mistake at a Northwest Side park.
The Fraternal Order of Police also reacted to the weekend violence, pointing to a “manpower crisis” and a change in policing strategy ordered by McCarthy.
“Sooner or later, McCarthy has to admit that the Chicago Police Department is in a manpower crisis,” union president Mike Shields said. “We cannot adequately police this city with this shortage of officers on the street.
“This is the first warm weather weekend, and already we’ve seen the results of the department’s inability to proactively fight crime,” Shields said.
McCarthy has shifted about 1,000 additional officers to working in patrol cars since he took office.
“The shortage of officers and the shift from aggressive policing to racing from one 911 call to the next in a beat car has had a dramatic effect on the increase in violence in the city,” Shields said.
But McCarthy said there isn’t a pressing need for more cops.
“Crime reduction is not a matter of how many officers we have but how they are deployed, what they do and how hard they are working,” he said. According to the department, there have been 94 murders so far this year — compared to 66 for the same period of 2011. There were 408 non-fatal shootings, compared to 296 last year.
Overall crime, however, has fallen about 11 percent over that same period, McCarthy said. If the overall crime number went up along with murders and shootings, McCarthy said he would be “overwhelmingly concerned.”
“We are going to turn it around,” he said of the firearm violence.