CHICAGO — Chicago Police officials said changes to the department's overtime system will help officers better fight crime, even though the city won't be hiring more officers or giving out more overtime.
Until now, officers could pick up extra hours anywhere in the city. Under the changes unveiled Tuesday, officers will be encouraged to work overtime shifts in their regularly assigned districts as a way to "give us more productivity and promote more community engagement," Supt. Eddie Johnson said.
Police won't necessarily be assigned to work in their home districts, though they'll be given the opportunity to do so before officers are brought in from other parts of the city, police said.
The changes don't mean the department will be spending more on overtime — and the department doesn't plan to add new officers either — but they will allow the department to get "more bang for the buck," Johnson said, because it would keep officers in the neighborhoods they already know the best.
With a police force whose ranks have seriously diminished since 2011, some local officials have called to hire more officers to address the city's surging violent crime rate. Police officials have responded by pointing to boosts in overtime as a cheaper alternative.
Police overtime shifts will also now extend to 25 zones around the city, Johnson added, where before they only spanned 19. He didn't specify where expanded zones would be, but said they were mostly on the city's South and West sides.
The zone boundaries will be re-evaluated every three months based on crime patterns, police said.
"Fighting crime is always a fluid situation, and we should always scrub the areas that are generating the violence," Johnson said. "So we should always be looking specifically at where the violence is occurring, and if we have to expand it, then we should."
Repeating his earlier claim that a core group of repeat offenders is driving most of the city's violent crime, Johnson called the new strategy "another tool in our toolbox to focus ... on those particular gang members."
"Let's face it, these 1,400 individuals that you've heard us talk about are in the most violent areas," Johnson said. "So both of those things go together."
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