JEFFERSON PARK — At least 20 new police officers will be assigned to the Jefferson Park (16th) Police District by the end of the year, Supt. Eddie Johnson promised four aldermen who told him that Far Northwest Side did not have enough officers to protect its residents from criminals.
Ald. John Arena (45th), Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st), Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) and Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) told Johnson the department needed to act immediately to stop an increase in the number of robberies, burglaries, assaults and car thefts in what are typically some of the safest neighborhoods in the city.
"What has been allowed to happen is beyond ridiculous," said Napolitano, a former police officer and firefighter. "We can not allow the Far Northwest Side to be forgotten."
Napolitano and the other Far Northwest Side aldermen praised Johnson for grasping the need for more officers in the area to patrol neighborhoods like Jefferson Park, Portage Park, Edison Park and Norwood Park.
Heather Cherone talks about the large increase in crime on the NW Side.
"We are seeing more crimes of opportunity, because the police are simply not around," Villegas said.
There are currently 192 officers assigned to cover the 36-square-mile district, which is the largest in the city. On recent nights, fewer than a half-dozen patrol cars have been on duty in the entire district, the aldermen said.
"The bad guys know that the odds of them getting caught in the 16th District are low," Sposato said.
Chicago Police Department Communications Director Anthony Guglielmi did not respond to a request for comment about staffing in the district.
"We need to make sure we have a presence of officers to deter crime," Arena said.
Johnson agreed to send between seven and 10 officers from each of the two new classes of police recruits, scheduled to graduate in October and November, to the district, the aldermen said.
In addition, the aldermen said Johnson agreed to allow between six and eight veteran officers to transfer from other districts to the Far Northwest Side.
The top cop also agreed to fill positions as officers retire, the aldermen said.
"This is long overdue," Napolitano said.
In July, the district got six new officers. But that was simply not enough, Sposato said.
"We had to call him to task," Sposato said, referring to Johnson. "To his credit, he listened and agreed."
While local officials often boast that the area is among the city's safest, the Far Northwest Side has seen an increased in robberies, burglaries, assaults and car thefts, according to data provided by the city.
The biggest increase has been in robberies, which have soared 57 percent between Jan. 1 and Sept. 1 this year as compared with last, according to the department's statistics.
Car thefts jumped 18 percent, burglaries increased 16 percent and assaults rose 9 percent in the same time period, according to the department's statistics.
"This should not have been allowed to happen," said Napolitano, who campaigned for alderman on promises to bring more police officers to the district. "It is unacceptable."
Both Napolitano and Arena said it was clear that the department's efforts to use overtime to fill vacant shifts and reassigning desk officers to patrol rather than hiring new officers had failed.
"The city did not budget correctly," Napolitano said. "It is not right that people pay all this money in taxes and get nothing. It is not safe."
As of Sunday afternoon, 496 people have been murdered in Chicago so far this year, approximately 50 percent more than at the same point in time last year and more than all of the people killed in 2015, according to department data.
But the Far Northwest Side has been largely immune from the gun and gang violence now sweeping the South and West sides.
In Portage Park, there has been eight shootings so far in 2016.
In Norwood Park, there has been one murder and one non-fatal shooting in 2016.
In Dunning, there has been one murder and one non-fatal shooting that claimed two victims this year.
In Sauganash, there has been two non-fatal shootings.
There have been no shootings in the Jefferson Park, Edison Park or O'Hare community areas in 2016.
"Murder isn't the only crime," Arena said. "Just because we don't have a high murder rate, it doesn't mean we don't need a police force."
Earlier this month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he plans to propose a budget next month that would hire an as-yet undetermined number of new police officers.
Arena, who voted against the mayor's budgets in 2013 and 2014 because they did not include more money for new officers said he was pleased by Emanuel's change of heart.
"That has been my premier concern," Arena said. "It took the mayor a full term too long to reverse his position."
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: