Last week I was in Springfield for the signing of the Safe Neighborhoods Reform Act, a new state law which will lead to stricter prison sentences for repeat gun offenders in Illinois. It is a bill I have supported for a long time, and it is an important component of the broader public safety strategy we have implemented throughout the first six months of 2017.
All of us who love this city were saddened and sickened with the level of violence last year, as shootings and murders spiked on the South and West sides. Over the first six months of 2017 we have implemented a smart policing strategy that is showing early signs of progress.
Early in the year we made a conscious decision to make district-level intelligence the driver of our crime fight. Five of our historically most violent police districts on the South and West sides were outfitted with new strategic nerve centers, more robust integrated camera networks and gunshot detection technology. Analysts from the University of Chicago Crime Lab are working hand-in-hand with police officers in these new nerve centers, creating actionable intelligence that not only helps us respond to crime, but prevent it from occurring in the first place.
The early results from this evidence-based, data-driven approach have even impressed some of the old-timers in the police department. Englewood has seen a 30 percent reduction in murders, and a 32 percent reduction in shootings. North Lawndale has seen an 18 percent reduction in murders, and a 35 percent reduction in shootings.
While we are encouraged by our progress,we still have a lot of work left to do.
That is why we will meet Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s goal of growing the Chicago Police Department by nearly 1,000 new sworn officers, detectives, and supervisors. This year, 387 new police officers have graduated from the Training Academy and are on the streets. Six new classes of police recruits have entered the Academy. And we have promoted 52 lieutenants, 142 sergeants, 266 detectives and 122 field training officers.
At the same time, we are on track to meeting our expedited schedule of ensuring every officer is equipped with a body camera, a Taser, de-escalation and mental health awareness training. New officers are being trained in cultural competency, and last week we held our first training session for recruits at the DuSable Museum, a program that will be mandatory for all incoming officers moving forward. Next week, the first officers will begin training in our new use-of-force policy, which was created with unprecedented community input.
We are building better partnerships with federal law enforcement agencies. We are running a new joint strike force with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) that focuses on removing illegal guns from our city and targeting prosecution of repeat violent offenders.
Last week, the ATF deployed its state-of-the-art National Integrated Ballistic Information Network van to Chicago, which will assist our officers in solving gun crimes by tracing shell casings at crime scenes using a national database. My hope is that whoever is appointed to serve as the next U.S. Attorney in Chicago will take the results of our work with the ATF and prosecute those dangerous gun offenders.
We are strengthening our partnership with the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, creating continuity in homicide investigations so the same prosecutor will be responsible for a criminal case from the first step of felony review all the way to sentencing at trial. I am confident that this method, which has proven successful in cities including New York and Los Angeles, will lead to better outcomes in the courtroom and reaffirm a culture of accountability for violent offenders.
And, most importantly, we are strengthening our partnership with residents. Fighting crime requires a partnership between the police and the community, a lesson I learned early in my career when I was walking the beat as a rookie officer. Community policing must be our guiding philosophy. We are using the feedback we hear from residents to better inform our crime fight, and new police policies are now open for public feedback prior to being implemented — a first for Chicago.
And the mayor is committed to keeping our young people from falling into a life of crime to begin with, driving economic opportunities in our most struggling neighborhoods, expanding proven after school and summer jobs programs, and investing $36 million over the next three years to make mentoring universal for young men in our 20 most violent neighborhoods.
Preventing crime and reducing gun violence isn’t about doing any “one” thing, it’s about everything you do coming together in a smart strategy.
This is our approach in 2017. It is achieving results. Achieving success will take time. Across all districts, shootings are down about 14 percent in Chicago this year. But our work is by no means done.
I was born and raised in Chicago, and I have been a member of the Chicago Police Department for nearly three decades. I know from experience that Chicago can overcome whatever challenges we face by working together as a city, building coalitions and uniting together. Over the next six months, and in the years ahead, let’s continue to work together as a city to ensure every person in every neighborhood in every corner of this great city has the same level of safety.
Eddie Johnson is superintendent of the Chicago Police Department.