AUBURN GRESHAM — The mayor and his top cop credited beat officers on the street as part of what they called Operation Impact with causing a dramatic decrease in crime in the city's most troubled areas.
Borrowing a technique initiated in New York City a decade ago when he was a cop there, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said he had targeted the 20 most dangerous areas of the city, where 20 percent of all murders, shootings and robberies took place in what made up 3 percent of the city's overall area, and put police on the street there at times most crimes took place.
According to McCarthy, those areas saw a 48 percent decline in shootings, a 45 percent drop in murders and a 29 percent drop in overall crime in the six months since Operation Impact was first launched in the Gresham District in March. Those figures were about double the declines over the same period citywide.
In the Gresham District, he added, where McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a news conference Tuesday, shootings fell 48 percent, murders 41 percent and overall crime 27 percent.
"I anticipated that it was going to be this successful," McCarthy said, adding that the city's conflicts over gang turf made street patrols even more effective than in New York.
"We're in the right places," he said, with what he called "strategic saturation deployment" or "hot-spot policing."
McCarthy and Emanuel, who termed it "shoe-leather policing," both emphasized the key to the program was what Emanuel called "a real sense of engagement with the community and the neighborhood." Emanuel said that not only cut crime, but gave local residents the realistic "perception" they were living in safer neighborhoods.
"It is the community participation that is the link to the foot patrol," Emanuel said.
"Building a relationship between the police and the community is key," said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, senior pastor at St. Sabina Church in Auburn Gresham.
McCarthy said the foot patrols began with cops on overtime, but evolved into officers working straight time as it gained momentum. He also said Operation Impact didn't deserve all the credit, as the department continues to target gangs and narcotics with other initiatives.
Yet the results were undeniable, he added.
"It really doesn't call for doing it everywhere, and we can't do it everywhere," McCarthy said.
Yet the goal is to carry those gains citywide, as with recently deployed foot patrols in Lakeview.
"The progress being made is only a start. One victim is too many, and there's much, much, much more work to be done," McCarthy said. "We're not going to rest until everybody enjoys the same sense of security."
"Until that's accomplished, we haven't done our job," Emanuel added.