UPTOWN — The city's promise of a one-year pilot program to address public drinking and chronic homelessness in Uptown is a viable alternative to more police when it comes to curbing crime in the neighborhood, Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said Monday.
In September, Cappleman emailed constituents — in the aftermath of a shooting that left a teen shot twice in the head — that he and other alderman were "insisting on a commitment of more police officers on the street" before voting on the 2014 city budget.
Cappleman, however, said Monday he has backed away from his demand for more police and his threat to vote no on the budget because of a new program set to kick off in Uptown in mid-December or January.
Various city departments, a social service agency, police and his ward office would partner to engage chronic drinkers and drug abusers on Uptown streets with treatment options. The aim is to help chronically homeless people break the cycle of homelessness, according to Cappleman.
Cappleman has said that locations where shootings have occurred in Uptown are often places where there is "a lot of public drinking." Referring to the Broken Windows theory that holds that ignoring smaller crimes can lead to an increase in more serious offenses, the alderman said dealing with public drinking is key in maintaining a safe neighborhood.
"I mentioned that I would vote no on the budget because my concern was we could not address a lot of the chronic drinking. Especially around the first of the month, the drinking was terrible," Cappleman said Monday night after a town hall budget meeting with 46th Ward residents.
Of the new program, Cappleman said: "I want to try this out. I want to see if it works."
The program would help the city cut costs associated with frequent hospital transports and arrests for substance abusers and mentally ill people in the area, he added.
The mayor's 2013 budget allocated $32 million for police overtime in 2013, but Supt. Garry McCarthy said recently that he expects the police department to spend $93 million by the end of the year. The mayor's 2014 budget proposes setting aside $75 million for police overtime, rather than spending money to increase the police force's 12,500-officer manpower.
The Fraternal Order of Police union and aldermen in the Progressive Reform Caucus have railed against the overtime allocation, arguing that $50 million could hire an additional 1,000 police officers.
The department has maintained that using overtime to cover shifts saves the department money because it's less expensive than hiring new officers with full employee benefits.
Critics argue that younger officers could be hired at lower rates, and that the overtime approach is only a stopgap answer to a need for more police officers in the city.
Cappleman was mum when asked to weigh in on the debate.
"I asked the police superintendent to give me the facts that support that" increasing police overtime is a logical alternative to hiring more police, he said. Cappleman wouldn't say if he would draw a line in the sand on the issue when it comes to his vote.
For more coverage of the the overtime vs. new officers debate, click here.
Editor's Note: This story contains corrected information from a previous version regarding Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposal for police overtime.