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Police: Murders down in zones with rookie officers on foot patrol

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Updated: June 16, 2013 6:40AM

Two rookie officers on foot patrol fired at a teenage gunman who was later arrested — a demonstration of the Chicago Police Department’s latest crime-fighting strategy in action, police officials said Tuesday.

The rookies were part of Operation Impact, which Police Supt. Garry McCarthy launched Feb. 1. Forty-eight recent graduates of the police academy have been assigned to foot patrols in 20 high-crime zones across the city. About 400 veteran officers a day have been working overtime on their days off in the zones in patrol cars.

Other versions of Operation Impact are in place in New York City and Newark, N.J., where McCarthy previously worked.

In the 20 zones in Chicago, murders were down 67 percent, shootings down 50 percent and overall crime down 27 percent between Feb. 1 and Sunday, police said.

“I think the message is being driven home that the police are out there and if you do something wrong you will be arrested,” said Deputy Chief of Patrol Eddie Johnson, pointing to the incident Monday.

According to the department, two rookies were patrolling on foot near 61st and Vernon at 7:55 p.m. Monday when they heard gunfire. They ran down the block, saw the gunman and yelled, “Police, police, drop the weapon!” but he turned and pointed the gun at them.

The gunman didn’t shoot at the officers, but fearing for their lives, the rookies fired at him and missed. Two other rookie foot-patrol officers were behind the first two officers, but the 16-year-old suspect managed to flee. He was arrested about an hour later and police recovered the gun they think he fired.

The 16-year-old was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, reckless discharge of a weapon and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. A second juvenile faces a weapon charge for allegedly hiding the weapon the 16-year-old was carrying.

Johnson said the rookies, who were assigned to Operation Impact after 12 weeks of field training in a district, “followed protocol.”

Johnson insisted “the community is happy with the police presence.”

But some residents have complained that it feels like an occupying force has moved into their neighborhoods with Operation Impact.

“The moral to the story is we put them out there to prevent violent crime from occurring,” Johnson said. “What we can’t measure if a shooting or murder was prevented — but these officers got an armed offender off the street.”

On Wednesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and McCarthy will attend the largest police recruit graduation in the city since 2005. All 105 of the new graduates will be assigned to Operation Impact foot patrols following a 12-week field training program.

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