NORTH LAWNDALE — Violent crime is down in "hotspots" where at least 200 cops working overtime conduct nightly patrols, and 200 more officers could soon hit the streets to target other problem areas of the city, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Monday.
“It’s a small percentage of the population and a super-heated group of individuals who are constantly engaging in gunfire on the streets,” McCarthy said Monday.
Last month, the superintendent launched a “strategic saturation” program that sends the 200 overtime cops to 10 violent crime hotspots across the city each night. The initiative is in response to a bloody 2012 that saw more than 500 homicides and the most murders in January in more than a decade.
McCarthy said a three-year crime analysis revealed that these zones, which represent just 1.6 percent of Chicago’s landmass, account for 10 percent of its violent crime.
By sending up to 20 officers to each zone nightly, McCarthy said, he enables district commanders to deploy their regularly scheduled officers elsewhere — which “saturates” problem districts.
“If we try to cover too much ground, we’re not going to get anything done,” McCarthy said. “We really need to focus.”
In February, there were no shootings or murders in the hotspots during the time covered, he said.
McCarthy said most of the targeted areas, which span district lines, are on the South and West Sides. Chatham tops the list.
Some have questioned conducting the crackdowns with officers working overtime rather than additional cops.
“Believe it or not, it’s cheaper to pay the overtime than it is to hire fully loaded officers with health benefits and things like that,” McCarthy said. “Plus, we have those officers now.”
McCarthy said the department is currently hiring, but training a new recruit takes nine months. Using cops on overtime is “more efficient,” he said.
When asked how officers can maintain energy levels during so many overtime shifts, McCarthy quipped: “They have a lot of energy because they’re getting more money.”
McCarthy said he has identified 10 additional hotspots and plans to deploy 200 more officers working overtime in the near future, bringing the grand total up to 400 officers across 20 targeted areas.
“Our progress is good,” he said, “but in no way shape or form [is it] a success.”
McCarthy said his department needs legislative help in the form of mandatory three-year prison sentences for gun possession, and a law that would require convicted criminals to complete at least 85 percent of their jail time without parole.
“There is a disturbing trend of convicted criminals not being held accountable for violent behavior, and then ending up back on street,” McCarthy said.
He said in the first nine weeks of 2013, officers seized 1,220 firearms, or about 20 guns a day.
“I keep telling everybody to go take a look at New York,” the former NYPD cop said, noting New York City has minimum sentencing laws and strict requirements for reporting lost and stolen guns.
“It's a city three times our size, and we’re taking nine guns to every one that they take off the street,” McCarthy said.