CHICAGO — Supt. Garry McCarthy said an initiative to combat drug sales on the West Side has been so successful that he has expanded it.
The West Side Initiative, which debuted in March in the Harrison District at 3151 W. Harrison St., focuses specifically on reducing violence stemming from the narcotics trade, McCarthy said. It has since been expanded to the Austin District, which is headquartered at 5701 W. Madison St.
"For years we in law enforcement would do a drug bust, put pictures on the wall, kilos on the table, hold a press conference and talk about the fact that we had created some sort of success from that," McCarthy said. "Somebody would be selling narcotics on the corner before we finished that press conference. That approach didn't really do anything to address the violence that's taking place at that location."
The initiative redeployed 200 officers from administrative jobs to the street, which led to 552 arrests within the Harrison District, McCarthy said. Murders within the district are down 40 percent and overall crime is down 30 percent when compared to last year at this time, he said.
"You have to take the right medicine for what ails you, and on the West Side of Chicago in a very general sense, there is more violence revolving around the narcotics trade," McCarthy said.
A similar initiative was put in place two weeks ago in the Austin District, McCarthy said during his weekly gun seizure round-up in which he again called for longer mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of unlawful possession of a weapon.
Police have seized more than 4,350 guns this year, an average of 136 guns per week, throughout the first 32 weeks of the year.