MOUNT GREENWOOD — Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy made no excuses for his department's strategy of deploying more officers to higher crime neighborhoods, even if it meant fewer officers in low-crime areas.
Speaking to Far Southwest Side community leaders Wednesday at St. Xavier University, McCarthy was asked about the number of officers assigned to the Beverly and Mount Greenwood communities.
"We don't deploy as many officers to good neighborhoods as we do to bad," he said.
Chicago's police superintendent said arresting criminals in high-crime areas can keep crime from spreading.
"If they catch them there, they don't come to Beverly," he said.
He also spoke about a common misconception about the number of police assigned to any neighborhood.
"People think that deployment stops crime. It really doesn't," McCarthy told a crowd gathered for the "Breakfast with the Experts" speaker series. The morning discussion was hosted jointly by St. Xavier and the Beverly Area Planning Association.
McCarthy said his crime-fighting approach has been to put more police officers on the street by breaking up large task forces and breaking down layers of middle management.
Once on the street, officers are asked to immerse themselves in their assigned territory. The idea is to become acutely aware of the people and places within their patrol area. Ideally, this empowers officers to know the good guys from the bad guys before crime occurs.
"There's a saying in baseball that says you have to know what to do with the ball before it gets to you," McCarthy said.
He also reminisced a bit on his first meeting with Mayor Rahm Emanuel. His plane landed late at O'Hare International Airport. Thus, McCarthy was flustered as he shook hands with the man who would become his boss in 2011.
"He looks at me and says, 'Dude, you are right out of central casting,' " McCarthy said.
McCarthy went on to praise Emanuel for keeping politics out of the Chicago Police Department. This has enabled him to implement the same strategies he successfully deployed in New York and Newark, N.J., he said. He credits these tactics for a 23 percent reduction in crime in the last two years.
"He's allowed me to do what I see fit," he said of Emanuel.
McCarthy concluded his speech with his often-heard plea to strengthen gun laws in Illinois. He said that buying a gun in Illinois is a strict process, but there's little follow-up, allowing legally bought guns to be illegally transferred.
"We seize more guns than any police department in the country," McCarthy said.