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Cops on foot patrol join ‘strategic saturation’ crime-fighting plan

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Updated: April 27, 2013 6:24AM

It’s an old idea: The cop walking the beat.

But that classic policing strategy is the latest tactic Chicago Police are adding in their ongoing battle against the city’s spiraling violence.

Supt. Garry McCarthy is confident it will be an important part of the department’s new “strategic saturation” crime-fighting approach. And he showed reporters a photo of some gang graffiti officers found that suggests the gangs agree.

“F--- the foot police,” it read.

“Apparently they’re having some sort of impact on gang members there,” McCarthy told reporters.

While officers in a vehicle can get around more quickly, McCarthy said, it’s easier for an officer on foot to engage with the community.

It began last week, he said, when officers on foot joined mobile units nightly in one of the 20 zones targeted in a department analysis of violent crime in Chicago. Twenty-four officers are assigned to that zone, but he said just 16 are working each evening.

The officers recently graduated from the police academy and completed a 12-week field training course. McCarthy said the foot patrols will expand as new officers complete that training.

“In the coming months you are going to see more assigned foot patrols phased into all the zones,” he said.

The implementation of the program, in which CPD is paying overtime to up to about 400 officers for nightly patrols in the 20 zones, coincided with a historically low tally of 14 murders in February. So far in March, there have been 12 murders. During the same period in March 2012, there were 40. All crime is down 35 percent in the targeted zones while officers are on patrol, McCarthy said Monday.

The officers patrolling the zones in vehicles continue to work for overtime pay, McCarthy said, but the foot-patrol officers do not.

“Those are straight-time officers,” McCarthy said.

He also said it gives the department a “scenario where we can start scaling back on the overtime and using straight-time officers.”

About the strategic saturation approach, McCarthy cautions: “This is not the cure for violent crime.”

The targeted zones were identified through a three-year and one-year analysis of violent crime in Chicago. And while the zones make up 3 percent of the city’s geography, he said, they’re responsible for about 20 percent of the violence over the last three years.

McCarthy has said the saturation approach frees commanders to send regularly scheduled beat officers to other areas in their districts that require attention.

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