Commander credits increase in officers and technology for 2nd District crime reduction

Chicago Police 2nd District Cmdr. Dion Boyd addresses Monday’s public safety meeting at GN Bank, 4619 S. King Dr. (Photo by Aaron Gettinger)

(Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the original version.)

Staff writer

Chicago Police Cmdr. Dion Boyd said putting more officers in the field and utilizing technological advancements in surveillance and crime forecasting have led to the decrease in crime across the 2nd District this year.

“When I first got here, things weren’t so good,” Boyd told a Nov. 18 community meeting on public safety in Bronzeville. Compared to last year, he said, murders have declined 44%, shootings 20%, robberies 25%, burglaries 22% and motor vehicle thefts 15%.

Hyde Park is in the southeastern corner of the 2nd District, which is bound by the lakefront, 31st Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway. Boyd became its commander in July 2018.

“We put more manpower in Hyde Park in the evening hours when people are going to dinner, coming home from school, things of that nature,” Boyd said, noting these actions further deterred crime.

Boyd said police found that crimes were concentrated on 35th, 47th and 51st streets, which contain overlapping gang territories. In response, the 2nd District added more officers to tactical teams and put more cameras and ShotSpotters, a sonar-utilizing gunshot-identification system, into the field.

He also cited HunchLab, “a web-based proactive patrol management system,” according to its website, that forecasts “when and where crimes are likely to emerge.”

Criminals look for crimes of opportunity, Boyd said, but having more officers in the field keeps would-be victims safe. They know individual gang members, he said, and they know how people walk when carrying firearms.

“We know we need to do even more, but we’re trending in a positive direction, and we’re going to try to stay the course with the community’s help,” he said.

Lt. Ozzie Valdez, acting director of the Area Central detectives, explained that his force follows up with investigations in the 2nd District. Speaking after Boyd briefed the audience about five Bronzeville shootings since September, Valdez said that victims as well as witnesses are increasingly reticent to discuss gang-related crime details with the police.

Videos of the crimes, Valdez said, often show arguments that escalate to shooting, thus police know victims have some relationship with the suspects. He stressed the fact that videos on their own cannot solve crimes, saying that positive identification of offenders is necessary for prosecution.

“The video in and of itself can’t testify,” he said.

Ald. Sophia King (4th) and Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) said they would follow up with their constituents after the meeting to discuss issues that were raised.

Nicole Crafton, owner of Uncle Joe’s Jerk Chicken, 1461 E. Hyde Park Blvd., told King there was not enough police presence on the street outside her store on Halloween this year. Police detained three people on the block this Oct. 31 following the cancellation of a concert and other programming on 53rd Street after fights broke out.

“The police were not getting out of their cars; the kids just took over,” Crafton said. “It was horrific when I had to close my business doors, because there were about 50 of them in my store.”

King responded that Halloween planning meetings with Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) and the Chicago and University of Chicago police departments began in May, saying that the violence did not come “from lack of planning.” She said they will hold a follow-up meeting in the near future.

King noted that the incidents along Hyde Park Boulevard happened before curfew: “There are only certain things we can do. We can’t put our hands on them, unless they’re doing something illegal or what have you.”

“There are literally teenagers who come with paint guns … to wreak havoc,” King said. “Did we successfully not have anybody hurt this year, not have any businesses destroyed? Yes. Is it still an issue? Yes.”

Crafton responded that a young woman had been beaten and took shelter in the Uncle Joe’s restroom. She said young men beat on the locked doors trying to get in. Boyd said he had directed his entire tactical team to that location on Halloween. King said she would take down her details and invited her to the follow-up meeting.

On Nov. 21, the 2nd District Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) office will have its second public meeting to assist in the drafting of a community policing strategic plan from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Oakwood Shores Community Center, 3825 S. Vincennes Ave.

“Any community meeting that any of our officers attend, if we get any information in terms of any crimes — if we get anything that needs to be implemented — we try to implement that, because the community, you guys, are our eyes,” Boyd said. “We can’t do anything without you guys.”

CAPS Officer Denise Gathings said anything they hear at the CAPS meetings gets transmitted to Boyd. “That’s why you see those cars sitting in certain areas, because you asked for those cars to sit and give special attention,” she said.