Chicago’s plan of attack on murder
Back in March, McCarthy and his team started the comprehensive strategy by performing a gang audit, identifying every gang, district, members’ turf, and the conflicts that they’re in. Now when an officer arrives on a crime scene, they are instantly armed with the information of who’s in what gang and can think about where the retaliation will come from, McCarthy says.
“We didn’t have that before. We’ve created the technology for this so that the beat officer has it right on their computer in their car, so that if somebody gets shot, they can identify them as a gang member, they automatically know who his associates are, and who are the likely offenders for the retaliation, and we already know who they’re in conflict with, which means that we know where the area is and we deploy our resources there so that we can pick up those guns as they’re coming in, and we’re having great success with that,” said McCarthy. That’s when the department started to see a reduction in shootings, but the murder rate will catch up to that, he explained.
Another ground-breaking plan of attack that McCarthy explains will encompass all city services and eliminate individual narcotics markets, rather than just locking up drug dealers and seizing products. This method, he says, has not been practiced across the country and will involve officials staying the course in those communities.
We might actually be causing murders by the way we’re doing narcotics enforcement in this country,” McCarthy said. By only arresting drug dealers and seizing the drugs, but walking away without putting a better alternative in its place, McCarthy says police officials are actually crippling the neighborhoods. The demand is still there and eventually, because it’s a known spot to buy drugs, someone else will go there to sell drugs. Later on, the original seller may return from jail, then a conflict ensues, because someone encroached on his or her territory.
“Rather than just declaring victory and walking away, the city will infuse services to the locations that those drug markets existed so that the supply and demand for drugs in that particular location eventually goes away,” McCarthy said. The department will put police officers there so that when someone goes back to buy drugs, they encounter an officer there instead of a drug dealer, “which means that the supply will not come back,” said McCarthy.
On Friday, McCarthy said Chicago police locked up 48 narcotics dealers from three separate markets across the city. He and his team will now bring in city services to fix broken windows, clean up the location, and organize the community through community groups and pastors to help fill that void and prevent that place from going back to what it was.
“This is entirely different from the way narcotics enforcement is done across the country. Because all we’ve doing is locking up drug dealers and declaring victory and going back and doing it again and again and again. And when those guys get out (of jail), they’re going to go somewhere else,” McCarthy said.
According to McCarthy, the crime-fighting strategy has been in place since the end of March and has proven to work well. “Since that time, we’ve had a reduction in shootings in the month of April and May, and now, we’re almost on the verge of winning June,” he said. With just a few more days left in June, Chicago is “flat on shootings.” He added, “If we could push that number down, we’ll have a reduction in shootings in the second quarter, which is not the perception that’s being translated out into the public.”
“So all of that comes together and people expect us to throw on a light switch and say ‘OK, we’re done with the violence.’ That’s just not going to happen,” McCarthy stated. “It’s going to be incremental change.”
Renita Young is a multimedia journalist based in Chicago. Follow Renita on Twitter at @RenitaDYoung