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Police Supt. Garry McCarthy grills top cops at CompStat meeting

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy quizzed top brass about their districts.  | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy quizzed top brass about their districts. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 3, 2011 6:29PM

Englewood District Cmdr. Anthony Carothers was feeling the heat Thursday.

He stood at a podium in front of more than 100 supervisors and his new boss, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.

In his Bronx brogue, McCarthy asked about a spike in shootings in Englewood over the last month compared with the same period in 2010.

Carothers attributed the violence to battles among 45 factions of the Gangster Disciples in the South Side district. But when McCarthy pressed for details, there wasn’t clear evidence of a gang motive in most of the shootings.

“It’s the commander’s job to know about every one of them,” McCarthy said, later adding, “Maybe we shouldn’t be putting all of our eggs in the gang basket. I’m not saying we don’t have a gang problem — it’s just part of the problem.”

Welcome to CompStat, a program to map and analyze crime statistics and hold commanders accountable at weekly meetings.

Many people know about the system from the HBO drama “The Wire,” which portrayed the Baltimore Police Department’s combative CompStat meetings. But CompStat was invented in New York in 1994, and McCarthy ran the meetings for seven years as the head of crime strategy for the NYPD.

McCarthy was the director of the Newark Police Department before he was hired last month to head the Chicago Police.

On Thursday, McCarthy introduced CompStat to Chicago. He was part coach and part interrogator as he quizzed commanders about crime in their districts and what they intended to do about it. He questioned narcotics and detective supervisors about how they’re supporting district commanders.

Crime maps loaded with statistics were projected on huge screens during the meeting at police headquarters at 35th and Michigan.

“This is not about ‘gotcha,’ ” McCarthy said. “The sin here is not bad numbers. The sin is not knowing what’s going on and how to address it.”

Still, McCarthy warned that if he learns of a commander fudging crime statistics, “It’s a career ender.” He also told the group: “If I see anybody sleeping, I’m throwing them out of here.”

He repeatedly stopped the meeting to explain his crime-fighting philosophy. He said he puts the most emphasis on a 28-day snapshot of crime and expects every district commander to have a handle on the periods that certain crimes are likely to happen.

“If we don’t know the time of day and day of week, how do we deploy our cops?” he said.

At one point, McCarthy asked a detective how long the state crime lab takes to process bullet casings for the Chicago Police. When he was told it typically takes four to six weeks, he asked his staff to look into having the Chicago Police do the work in-house. In Newark, McCarthy noted, it usually took about a day to get ballistics results.

When he learned at least two of the Englewood shootings involved dice games, McCarthy ordered a crackdown on them.

He also said he wanted narcotics investigators to focus on helping patrol officers shut down open-air drug markets. Narcotics Cmdr. Jim O’Grady pointed to one probe in Humboldt Park that closed such a market with the help of neighborhood leaders, forcing dealers to arrange their sales over the phone.

McCarthy nodded approvingly. “We gotta fight this like a ground war,” he said. “Once we take territory, I don’t want to give it back.”

McCarthy returned to his battle analogy when the discussion turned to the shooting of two girls — ages 2 and 7 — on Wednesday night on a Northwest Side playlot. The 2-year-old was grazed in the head, and the 7-year-old has a serious back wound. Two men were being held for questioning in the shooting, which apparently was targeting gang members nearby. McCarthy said the department must send a message to the Maniac Latin Disciples, who are thought to be responsible.

“We’re going to obliterate that gang,” he said. “Every one of their locations has to get blown up until they cease to exist.”

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