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Cops treading water? Emanuel says no

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy last year. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy last year. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 29, 2012 6:10AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel tried Monday to skin back ­— ­or at least clarify — Police Supt. Garry McCarthy’s claim that Chicago Police are “treading water” in the fight against violence after another weekend bloodbath on Chicago streets.

“I talked to Garry about that. That’s not [what he meant]. What he was talking about is a particular area at a particular point. Overall . . . crime is down 9-to-10 percent. That doesn’t just come your way. You have to go work for it,” the mayor said.

“Where we have tried new tactics — like in Englewood where you see a 25 percent drop in homicides — how do we take that to other places? In the [Grand Crossing] district, we saw we had a problem, put [in] new leadership [and] we’ve seen a dramatic change in just the last three weeks . . . We have to now deal with what’s happened in Grand Crossing over the weekend — and we will do that.”

Nine people were killed and 28 others were wounded in shootings since Friday.

It was yet another indication that a July that was one of Chicago’s least deadly in decades has given way to a bloody August that undermines McCarthy’s claims that his anti-violence strategy of disbanding specialized units in favor of putting more officers on beat patrol in neighborhood districts is taking hold.

On Monday, Emanuel noted that most of the weekend violence was concentrated in the city’s Gresham police district, where there has been a “spike in gang-on-gang violence.”

“A lot of people did enjoy this city this week. What happened in the 6th District in Grand Crossing is not reflective of the whole city . . . The weekend [violence] — it’s isolated. Not isolated, but the bulk of it comes in one area of Grand Crossing,” he said.

“[But] that doesn’t matter. Now, we have to do what we have to do in Grand Crossing. There is an example of what’s working in Englewood and in East and West Garfield Park. And we have to replicate that. That’s our responsibility . . . We had a particular issue in Grand Crossing and we’re gonna deal with what’s going on there in the same way that we successfully dealt with Englewood to date.”

On Jan. 23, McCarthy kicked Englewood District Commander Anthony Carothers upstairs as part of a larger plan to stop the bleeding by targeting gangs and drug markets in the two most violent districts.

The idea was to saturate the Englewood and Harrison districts with additional gang and narcotics officers, put the gangs and drug markets out of business, round up the fugitives and make the clean-up permanent with help from a “network of community, faith-based and government resources.”

The city’s commitment to stop the bleeding persuaded the federal government to commit resources to do the same.

Three Drug Enforcement Administration teams comprised of 40 agents have spent months working with Chicago Police on short and long-term narcotics missions in the Englewood and Harrison districts while FBI agents joined “shooting investigative teams.

The U.S. Marshals Service joined police on “fugitive apprehension missions” while the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms used its Strike Force to assist in making gun buys in the two districts.

The IRS targeted the assets of local drug dealers, and the Illinois Department of Corrections conducted “zero tolerance” compliance checks of parolees. Cook County and federal prosecutors have reviewed all gun cases to pinpoint ones that can be prosecuted on the federal level.

That’s the comprehensive saturation strategy that the mayor now wants to duplicate in the Gresham and South Chicago Districts. But Emanuel said Monday it won’t work if area residents who witness crimes won’t share that information with police.

“I’d like to remind everybody that it also requires the community to step up. You’re not a snitch. You have a role in community policing. The first word of community policing is community,” he said.

At a Saturday news conference touting a crackdown on two South Side drug markets, McCarthy said he sees the police department’s anti-violence strategy taking root.

“We’re not winning, we’re not losing. We’re basically treading water,” McCarthy said. He said that in the month of August, “we had some trouble because some of these retaliatory shootings are happening quicker than we can stop them.”

Emanuel has encouraged McCarthy to get out there and explain to the public what he’s doing to combat a rising homicide rate fueled by gang violence that has suddenly become a media obsession both locally and nationally. But, with that comes risk.

McCarthy is a quote machine nowhere near as measured as his boss, who always appears to be following a script.

On Monday, the mayor found himself in the uncomfortable position of having to explain away a remark made by his police superintendent.

Despite the correction — and another bloody summer weekend — sources said Emanuel has not lost confidence either in McCarthy or in the superintendent’s strategic decision to disband specialized units to return more officers to beat patrol.

McCarthy remains the first person Emanuel talks to in the morning and one of the last people he talks to at night. The mayor is constantly pressuring McCarthy to try new strategies and think “outside the box” to combat the gang violence that has turned some Chicago neighborhoods into shooting galleries, sources said.

“The frustration is it’s not turning around sooner,” said a top mayoral aide, noting that McCarthy “shares that impatience.”

The mayor also called for tougher gun laws and stiffer sentences for those convicted of gun crimes to stop suburban gun shops from flooding Chicago streets with a seemingly unlimited supply of weapons, as disclosed by the Chicago Sun-Times.

And he talked about the “milestone” that will be reached this week when the city demolishes the 100th abandoned building that has served as a haven for gangs.

Even before the latest spate of violence, some aldermen have been calling for a return to the roving citywide units that McCarthy disbanded in favor of putting more officers on beat patrol in neighborhood districts.

Emanuel hedged when asked whether he is giving any thought to resurrecting those units.

“We’re always gonna be looking at tactics and freshening up what we can do in a particular neighborhood that’s having particular gang-on-gang violence as it has in Grand Crossing this weekend,” the mayor said.

Pressed further about the specialized units, he said, “You’re gonna focus on one thing. I’m focused on all . . . aspects of what we’re doing and what we have to do now in the 6th District, [including] one area that represented about 45 percent of the shootings and a third of the homicides . . . My goal is not to say something different for the whole city when we have issues particular to a neighborhood. . . I want to see what we have to do in the 6th and 4th Districts, where we had a particular flare-up this weekend.”

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