Chicago Police: Violence drops after 2 new units rolled out

CHICAGO (AP) — There has been a reduction in homicides and shooting incidents in Chicago since the city’s police force launched two units aimed at combating gun violence and ensuring protests and other large events don’t devolve into chaos, police said Monday.

Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said “tenuous progress” has been made in the department’s efforts to stem gun violence. There were three homicides over the weekend compared to 12 and eight the previous two weekends and 17 over the July Fourth weekend, Brown said at a news conference.

The tenuous progress touted by Brown was obvious late Monday when five people sitting on a porch in the South Side Burnside neighborhood were wounded by shots fired from a passing vehicle. A 22-year-old man was later pronounced dead at University of Chicago Hospital from a gunshot wound in the back. A man wounded in the buttocks was hospitalized in critical conditions and three others were hospitalized in good condition.

Earlier Monday, a 10-month-girl riding in an auto on a Chicago expressway was shot in the shoulder. She was also grazed in an ear by the bullet. Family members say she is in good condition.

From 6 p.m. Friday until midnight Sunday, the department recorded 39 shootings. That compares to 41 the previous weekend, 50 the weekend before that and 87 during the long Independence Day weekend.

“Our citywide teams deployed Thursday for the first day … helped cover more areas that have seen spikes in violent crimes,” Brown said. While protests took place in the city over the weekend, none of them turned violent, he said.

The Community Safety Team of about 300 officers was deployed to areas that have seen an uptick in violent crime this year on the city’s West and South Sides, Brown said. The other unit, comprising about 250 officers, is called the Critical Incident Response Team. Those officers have received training in crowd control and 1st Amendment issues, and were deployed to protests and marches around the city. In the future, that unit will also be deployed to major events, such as music festivals and the Taste of Chicago, which have been canceled this year due to the pandemic.

He said the development of the Critical Incident Response Team is especially important because it means officers won’t need to be diverted from their own communities to police demonstrations and marches.

“Every time we have to drain our resources for protests, the people on the West Side and the South Side suffer,” he said.

Brown said he hopes the Critical Incident Response Team will help restore public trust in his officers. Long plagued by a legacy of excessive force and racism, the Chicago Police Department has struggled to convince residents to trust it enough to come forward with information to help solve homicides and other violent crimes.

The unit is not a “roving strike force,” he said. Such units have been criticized in the past for being overly aggressive, and one was disbanded after some of its officers committed robberies and home invasions. Members of the new unit will instead participate every week in events such as prayer circles, food drives, COVID-19 resource distributions and other community events, Brown said.

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