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Ground zero in Chicago’s war on gangs

Chicago Police Commander David McNaughtChicago Lawn District Southwest Side scans latest police software gangs for informatiabout shooting victim his associates

Chicago Police Commander David McNaughton of the Chicago Lawn District on the Southwest Side scans the latest police software on gangs for information about a shooting victim, his associates and his rivals on May 30. | Frank Main~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 10, 2013 6:20AM

As paramedics lifted gunshot victim Deuntrell Murry into an ambulance, Chicago Police Cmdr. David McNaughton was already plotting a response to his shooting.

Immediately after Murry was shot in the leg at 2:10 p.m. on May 30 in the 2700 block of West 64th, McNaughton learned his name from a district intelligence officer on the scene.

Within 20 minutes, police headquarters created an intelligence report on Murry, which the commander pulled up on a computer in his office in the Chicago Lawn District on the Southwest Side. Murry’s mugshot was at the top of the report, which listed his associates, their gang ties, their criminal records and their rivals.

Now McNaughton knew where to send his officers to prevent retaliation. They were told to stop Murry’s reputed gang associates and rivals alike — and warn them not to start a war. One of Murry’s associates was eventually arrested with a gun — possibly preventing a shooting, police said.

“Obviously, this was a defeat,” McNaughton said of Murry’s shooting. “But we don’t want 10 defeats piled on top of it. . . . What happened in the past was — we’d have a shooting, we’d make a report, and the detectives would have to figure it out.”

The Chicago Sun-Times spent a recent afternoon with McNaughton to see how he deals with shootings in his district. District commanders like McNaughton are at the center of the “gang violence reduction strategy” that police Supt. Garry McCarthy has put in place over the past two years.

The strategy relies on intelligence from a “gang audit” conducted last year. The audit provided updated information on 600 gang factions and their members.

To execute the strategy, McCarthy needed confidence in his district commanders. So he has handpicked them in 21 of the city’s 22 districts.

“We saw some commanders who weren’t really on top of it,” said Robert Tracy, McCarthy’s chief of crime strategy. “We think we now have a pretty good core that understands the strategies and are not beholden to the old way.”

In putting the focus on district crime fighting, McCarthy eliminated citywide strike forces. He also launched a version of New York City’s CompStat, a system of evaluating whether the strategies are working.

Under CompStat, district commanders and the heads of other units meet with McCarthy and Tracy every Thursday. They’re expected to know every crime problem in their jurisdiction and be able to explain what they’re doing to eliminate the problems, no matter how small.

The strategy also involves “call-ins” in which gang members on parole or probation are required to meet with law enforcement officials and community members after a killing. They’re warned their entire group will be targeted if the gang commits another murder. The call-ins began under former police Supt. Jody Weis.

Tracy said the gang violence reduction strategy will be put to the test this summer. Violence traditionally rises with the temperatures.

“I am looking forward to the summer,” Tracy said. “The things we put in place, we should be successful.”

So far this year, crime is down considerably in Chicago compared to the same period of 2012 — both citywide and in the Chicago Lawn District. Through Tuesday, murders were down 34 percent citywide and down 61 percent in the district. Overall crime was down, too.

McNaughton attributed the decline in violence to the way the department leaps into action after every shooting. Even McCarthy is notified after every shooting, including Murry’s.

Murry, 20, is a felon who served prison time for a 2012 gun possession conviction, records show.

In an interview, he said he was shot in the lower leg while walking to his mother’s home. He said he never saw the shooters’ faces.

He said he was in the hospital for four days and is now on crutches.

Murry said he was unaware of the department’s efforts to stop any retaliation, but said he told his friends to “let the police handle it.” Murry said he was once a member of a gang faction called Sixth Ward, but claims he left the gang after getting out of prison.

“I put all of that behind me,” he said.

Since Murry’s shooting, officers have stopped Murry’s alleged gang associates as well as members of rival gangs to warn them not to start a war.

The stops have generated seven “contact cards,” which record when and where the stops took place and who was there. The cards help in determining a gang member’s associates.

Police said they also arrested a 14-year-old boy in the neighborhood Tuesday on misdemeanor gun and ammunition charges for having a Smith & Wesson revolver with six live rounds.

“Certainly getting a gun out of the hands of a gang member who may be involved in a conflict is a good thing,” police spokesman Adam Collins said.

So far, there have been no retaliatory shootings because of Murry’s shooting, police said. No one has been arrested in the case.

On Thursday night, a 30-year-old man was fatally shot in the head on the block where Murry lives, but police said they don’t think the murder was related to Murry’s shooting. The victim wasn’t tied to Murry’s associates or their rivals.

McNaughton said the department’s gang violence reduction strategy requires district commanders to communicate regularly with their counterparts in other units.

“It’s not just the district resources — the beat cars, the tactical units, the rapid response car,” he said.

“If we have something spiking, we bring in the outside units. That’s the district commander’s job, to report up the chain of command and to the other commands — gang enforcement, detectives and narcotics — and say, ‘Hey, what can you do to help us out over here?’ ”

For example, McNaughton said his tactics include checking for arrest warrants for parolees who belong to the same gang faction as a shooting victim.

If there is one, McNaughton can contact the police department’s gang enforcement unit, which can then join the Illinois Department of Corrections in arresting the parolee and returning him to prison.

McNaughton keeps track of every shooting and murder in his district in a thick binder on his desk.

“I can give you example after example where we had a good idea of what was going on right after a shooting,” McNaughton said, leafing through the binder. He noted that on April 20, his officers made an arrest in a shooting just 20 minutes after it happened.

McCarthy said district commanders like McNaughton are the “quarterbacks” for his gang violence reduction strategy.

“The district commanders are the most important position in the department,” he said. “They have the most difficult job — and the most rewarding.”

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