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Southeast Side wards need more police, aldermen say

by Meg Handley
April 16, 2009


Chicago Police Department, Districts 4 and 6


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Growing demands for service coupled with lengthening police response lag times have Southeast Side aldermen questioning the police resources dedicated to their wards.

Eighth Ward Alderman Michelle A. Harris said Thursday that the South Chicago Police District that encompasses most of her ward is “far too large for the manpower that’s currently allotted to it.” Harris addressed a panel of Chicago police personnel at a City Council Committee on Police and Fire meeting to discuss law enforcement resource utilization.

“At least two or three times in a month or a week I’m getting a call about somebody getting shot,” Harris said. “I hate to even answer the phone because I know it ain’t good news. They ain’t calling me just to say ‘have a wonderful day.’”

Harris’ ward, which she says receives between 2,500 and 4,000 calls for service every month, has struggled with the timeliness of police responses to incident reports. According to Harris, some of her constituents have waited as long as three hours for police contact; others received no response from police at all.

“I’m just so concerned about the deployment of manpower for that district,” she added. “They’re doing a yeoman’s job over there with the resources they’re given.”

Committee Chairman Isaac S. Carothers of the 29th Ward echoed Harris’ concerns and called on police representatives to explain the department’s strategy for keeping violence in check as the weather improves.

Carothers said more than 30 young people have been killed in Chicago so far this year. “We’re just getting into spring,” Carothers said. “My concern was the deployment of current resources. Some districts are too big.”

Statistics from the Chicago Police Department support Harris’ claims: In the past three months, the Gresham and South Chicago districts that cover her ward ranked third and fourth respectively in total number of criminal incidents.

Tenth Ward Alderman John A. Pope, whose ward shares a border with Harris’, said the patrols assigned to his area aren’t sufficient when units respond to backup requests for major crimes elsewhere. Beat cars shuffled for support create holes in patrol coverage, and criminals listening to police scanners know when police are diverted away from their neighborhoods, Pope said.

Deputy Superintendent Daniel F. Dugan said the department is considering redistricting plans that would better distribute beat territories over the geographic area, especially in the South Chicago, Chicago Lawn, and Jefferson Park districts, which are the city’s largest.

“We’re painfully aware of the issues that are present today,” Dugan said. “They each pose their own unique geographical issues.”

In the meantime, special tactical forces will supplement regular patrols in the most violent areas of the city, Dugan said.