Last month, Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) held a community meeting for his Austin, West Garfield Park and East Garfield Park constituents at the Malcolm X College’s West Side Learning Center, 4624 W. Madison.
Chicago Police Department District 11 Commander Kevin Johnson and Lt. Ernest Cato, of the 15th District, talked about what they were doing to reduce crime, and what more could be done.
Last November, Johnson and District 15 Commander Dwayne Betts gave a grim assessment of the year 2016, saying that they didn’t want to see another year like that. During the Feb. 21 meeting, the District 11 commander said that, so far this year, the violent crime has been decreasing.
“The last couple of weeks, we’ve seen some downward trend,” he said. “But we still have a long way to go.”
An analysis of police data shows a slight, but noticeable, decrease in violent crimes over the last three months in the 11th and 15th Districts.
Johnson said that one the crime fighting measures his district has relied on is what’s called Strategic Situation Rooms.
“This is basically combining cameras, gun sensing technology and some predictive policing,” Johnson said, adding that the predictive policing is the software that uses past crime data to determine where crime is more likely to occur. Officers are sent to those sports not just to stop crime, he explained, but also to engage with local residents.
“To have police officers out there, engaged with the community, and be highly visible, can reduce crime,” Johnson said.
The commander also said that the department has been able to clean up the 4400 block of West Monroe Street, which a DNAinfo reporter last December dubbed “the most dangerous block in Chicago” based on the number of shootings that happened on the block last year.
“Last year, they said it was the most violent block in Chicago,’ Johnson said. “We really want to go block-by-block to see what we can do better.”
The commander said that the number of car thefts has shot up in recent months. After a change in policy, officers no longer chase cars as aggressively as they used to — which, Johnson said, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“We want to catch bad guys, but we don’t want to hurt the citizens in the process,” Johnson said.
Johnson said that, for improved safety, it is vital for residents to work together with the police. He also stressed that the shortage of opportunities for young people needs to be addressed.
“Some young men and women don’t have access to jobs,” he said. “Violence is a byproduct of everything else that’s going on. Hopefully, we can address some of those issues, and violence will be reduced.”
Cato, who said he was at the meeting on Betts’ behalf, said that he grew up on the 4400 block of Monroe and was disheartened by the report.
“All I can remember growing up was trees, block parties,” he said. “When it’s [described as] the most violent block, it hurts me.”
The lieutenant said he agreed with Johnson about the positive trends, saying that something similar has been happening in District 15. Cato touted his district’s use of Strategic Anti-Violence Missions to reduce crime. The initiative involves the police putting more resources, officers and increasing infrastructure improvements in areas where it believes there is lots of potential for violence.
Cato also said that CPD continues cracking down on businesses engaged in illegal practices, such as selling tobacco and marijuana to underage children. Cato added that the 15th District has also revived the Boy Scouts and the Police Explorers program.
“[Crime] is a community and police problem,” Cato said. “If we don’t come together, there is nothing that can be done.”