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Chicago cops and sheriff's police forge tighter partnership

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart (left) and interim Chicago Police Supt. John Escalante pledged a greater degree of cooperation. | File photos

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said he recently met with interim Chicago Police Supt. John Escalante at a coffeehouse to talk shop.

What emerged from their discussion is a strengthened partnership in which city cops and county sheriff’s officers will work together to target violent crime in the Harrison and Austin police districts on the West Side, Dart said.

Murders and shootings this month are about double what they were over the same period of last year. Murders and shootings were up in 2015, too, compared to the previous year.

The sheriff’s office was already operating in the city — performing evictions, checking on people released from the Cook County Jail on electronic monitoring and chasing people wanted on criminal warrants.

“We have been doing operations, but not as coordinated as this,” Dart said at a news conference Wednesday at Chicago Police headquarters.

“This will be a more thoughtful approach,” he said.

The sheriff’s office and the police department will work together on drug and gun investigations, Escalante said.

“In order to keep all Chicagoans safe, it is imperative that we work with our partners in law enforcement to strike gangs at the heart of their operations,” Escalante said, adding that it will increase the visibility of police in high-crime areas.

“It’s still about making proper stops,” Escalante added.

Dart said he didn’t have any conversations about the joint effort with Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “We haven’t spoken for a long time,” Dart told the Chicago Sun-Times.

On Tuesday, the first day of the joint operation, two guns were recovered and officers visited the homes of 11 people on probation or parole to tell them: “We are here and we know you are here,” said Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department.

“If you are a bad guy with a gun, we will hold you accountable,” Guglielmi said.

Sheriff’s officers won’t answer Chicago Police radio calls — although they can communicate on the same frequency when necessary, Dart said.

“We back up people all the time,” he said.

Dart said his officers have already been working with law enforcement in Northwest Indiana to combat violence and recover guns. He said the partnership with the Chicago Police Department could be particularly effective along the border of the city and the suburbs.

“This will go on forever — as long as I’m around, certainly,” Dart said.

In 2015, a similar partnership between the sheriff’s office and police department resulted in the recovery of 110 guns, 219 warrant arrests, 43 felony arrests and 739 misdemeanor arrests as well as the recovery of two stolen vehicles.