Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin has written a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, imploring him to put more police on inner-city streets, particularly in Austin, which is within the First District Boykin represents on the county board.
“It is obvious to all that the Westside has been deprived of the opportunity, prosperity and growth experienced by many other Chicago neighborhoods,” Boykin wrote in the April 13 letter. “Put simply, this neglect has gone on for too long and the increases in violence and homicides are clear evidence of that neglect.”
The commissioner said that he was prompted to write the letter introducing the policing measure after reading an April 8 article published in the Austin Weekly News, which noted that the neighborhood leads the city in homicides for the first quarter of this year.
This year in Austin, seven people were murdered in the first three months; up from five during the same period last year. Austin is the city’s largest community, with close to 100,000 residents.
“I was profoundly troubled by that article,” said Boykin at a recent town hall in Oak Park. “I read through it and read a few of the comments that people offered and I said, ‘We’ve got to do something.’ Everybody pays county taxes, so I said we ought to use the sheriff’s resources to complement CPD’s resources.”
“During the election, Mayor Emanuel said they couldn’t afford to hire 1,000 new police,” Boykin said. “I don’t want Austin to have less police protection. I think they deserve the same level of police protection they get on the Gold Coast or downtown or in the South Loop or the West Loop. Folks have got to feel safe in our communities. It’s a business issue too, because this crime brings business down and drives property values down.”
Boykin is urging the mayor to engage in an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between the Cook County Sheriff’s Police and the Chicago Police Department “that would put additional public safety officers on the streets of Austin,” the letter states.
The commissioner noted he would introduce an ordinance providing for the IGA at the county level. Boykin said so far, the mayor hasn’t responded, but that he expects some kind of response to be forthcoming given the media attention the letter has garnered.
Chicago police spokesman Martin Maloney stated in a release referenced by DNAinfo that Chicago boasts more officers per capita than any other city in the country and that “our work to continue reducing crime is about more than just the number of officers alone.”
“Over the past four years we have made community policing and fostering stronger relationships with residents the foundation of our policing strategy, we have put more officers in high crime areas, and the city has significantly increased its investments in prevention programming,” Maloney said.
Boykin said, in addition to addressing the short-term issue of inadequate policing, the city and county also need to address the depressed economy on the West Side.
“The real deal is we got to get a jobs bill, an infrastructure bill, and some kind of economic activity for folks who live in communities like Austin, Lawndale, East Garfield, West Garfield. We’ve got to get economic development for them.”