Police, municipal response to local crime detailed at 4th Ward meeting


Staff Writer

Neighborhood police forces reported at a Fourth Ward community meeting on crime that arrests for violent crimes have been on a dramatic increase since the start of this year.

Eric M. Heath , University of Chicago Associate Vice President for Safety and Security, said the number of arrests in 2018 for violent crime has eclipsed the number in 2017; at this rate, arrests this year could be more than the sum of the past three years combined.

At the meeting, last Wednesday, Crystal King-Smith, Chicago Police Department Second District Commander also expressed hope that technology upgrades and additional officers may help to continue the trend..

King-Smith said her officers were “very excited” about the technology upgrades that do shot-spotting by triangulation of a location within a hundred meters of gunfire and instantaneously sends that information to police headquarters and on-patrol beat officers’ cell phones. Should traffic surveillance cameras be in the area, they will also film the location. SDSC-based officers observing the footage relay live information to the responding beat officers, as well.

Health reported the University Police Department (UCPD) had done more traffic stops thus far in 2018 than in all of 2017. “As you can imagine, we had some community kickback on that,” said Heath, adding that the number fell in 2015. After his appointment in 2016, Heath said his goal was to find a good balance between enforcement and community response to increased police contact. He said the “missing piece” in police relations was engagement with the community about their efforts. He reported that as the number of stops increases police interaction with people roaming the communty; it results in more serious arrests.

He made his comments at the Fourth Ward meeting, at the St. Paul and the Redeemer Episcopal church, 4945 S. Dorchester Ave.

“As I told Alderman King, it’s not necessarily about the number of stops. It’s about quality of stop and the type of activity that we’re doing here to try to bring down and try to really aggressively deal with the uptick in violent crime while also doing it in a fair and impartial manner—and that’s really important for us,” said Heath. UCPD Chief Kent Rainey said that discussions with area stakeholders resulted in another officer joining the department and the addition of two supplemental patrol beats.

Commander King-Smith said at the meeing that the number of robberies in the area had actually decreased. However, “Now that summer’s coming, all the little hot spots are going to get a little bit hotter,” she said.

Area Central Deputy Chief Kevin Ryan said that bicycle patrols in the area bounded by King Drive, 43rd, and 51st streets and all along the South Side lakefront started over the weekend. Ryan called the bike patrols “very aggressive” and “kind of like an enhanced foot patrol, because they’re out—they talk to the neighbors, they talk to the community—and they can get up on these crooks real easy and quietly.”

Ryan further promised area saturation teams, or enforcement teams put in high crime areas, Chicago Police gang teams and technology upgrades that would better allow coordination with the UCPD like live crime-tracking computers and cameras to allow “immediate” police reaction to shots fired from sites called Strategic Decision Support Centers (SDSC).

King-Smith asked meeting attendees to vigilantly report crime to area dispatch, saying that cameras would be employed in such situations as well. King said personal cameras are also useful—she has them on her own home—and said her office would install cameras at 47th Street and Woodlawn Avenue and 51st Street and Lake Park Avenue.

Walter Katz, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Public Safety, said Chicago Police have added around 1,400 police academy cadets since last October and would have 1,000 new officers and 200 new detectives by years end, taking attrition and retirement into account. He also said that SDSC data analysis conducted every eight hours would be used to direct comprehensive police response and that the cost for each SDSC and the shots fired detection technology was between $1.5 to $2 million.

Additionally, Katz said that, by 2020, Chicago Police officers will receive 40 additional yearly hours of use-of-force and de-escalation trainings. “All that is centered around professional, location-based smart policing, but which is also constitutional and protective of civil rights,” he said.

King said to the crowded room, “Sometimes it’s great to see a lot of people at community meetings. Other times, it’s because there are challenges. Let’s just say it’s good to see everybody here, but I know there’s a lot going on in terms of safety.”