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Undercover Cops Target Downtown Pickpockets During Holiday Season

By Josh McGhee | December 2, 2013 12:39pm | Updated on December 2, 2013 5:15pm
 Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said undercover officers and uniformed officers will be deployed in the Downtown area to help prevent crime during the holiday season.
Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said undercover officers and uniformed officers will be deployed in the Downtown area to help prevent crime during the holiday season.
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DNAinfo/Josh McGhee

CHICAGO — Undercover police will be on the lookout for pickpockets trolling Downtown for shoppers this holiday season, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Monday.

The Police Department is deploying the undercover officers along with uniformed officers in the hopes of reducing crime during the holiday shopping season, McCarthy said.

"We do have undercover officers working to watch for pickpockets and things of that nature," said McCarthy. "But it's generally about putting officers in uniform out there in high visibility to prevent things from happening."

Although McCarthy did not release statistics on crime Downtown during the holiday weekend shopping rush, he unveiled the strategy at a news conference touting citywide successes in fighting crime through the first 11 months of the year.

So far in 2013, the city has seen the lowest number of murders since 1965. The city has also seen 25 percent fewer shootings and 20 percent fewer in murders compared to last year's total.

The announcement came after a chilly November that saw 70 fewer shootings and nine fewer murders then last November.

McCarthy also said police seized 435 guns last month, bringing the year-to-date total to 6,371 guns.

McCarthy pointed to a comprehensive strategy of saturating high-crime areas with more officers, using intelligence to prevent retaliatory gang shootings and partnering with the community to cut crime. And he again called for mandatory minimum sentences for those caught carrying illegal weapons.

"While this year, there has been less crime and fewer murders in Chicago than there have been in decades, there's far more work to be done, and no one will rest until we reach the ultimate goal of zero crime," said McCarthy. "To reduce violence for the long term, our state and our country need better laws to keep illegal guns out of our communities and punish the criminals who carry them."

He also expressed optimism that he could build a strong relationship with the new U.S. attorney "to come up with new ways to partner and do things better.

"The fact is, we've got to get everybody involved — not just the community — but legislators who are  willing to take bold steps to support what we're doing. We need to work with the judiciary, the state's attorney and the new U.S. attorney," he said.

McCarthy said he plans to build on the lower numbers in 2014 by perfecting and tweaking the strategy responsible for this year's low totals.

"Crime reduction is not necessarily about unveiling new strategies and continuing to come up new and different ways to do it. What you do is keep getting better at what you do," he said. "We don't want to replace the engine. What we want to do is make it run faster."

He said the Police Department will continue to focus on preventing retaliatory shootings, a process he admits is "not 100 percent effective."

"Sometimes we slip, and we miss things. As we get better and better at this, we will continue to have more and more success," McCarthy said. "It's not like we're going to unveil a whole new strategy. We're going to keep doing what we know."