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Two final CPD detective areas get tech centers to boost dismal clearance rates for homicides, shootings

Area South got its nerve center in late February, courtesy of billionaire Ken Griffin’s $10 million gift to CPD last year. Now, the Central and North areas have the same capability.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson at a recent City Hall news conference.
Fran Spielman/Chicago Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has promised to restore “peace and safety as a basic right” for all Chicagoans and give crime victims a sense of justice by boosting dismal clearance rates for homicides and shootings.

On Thursday, the Chicago Police Department took an important step toward delivering on that promise, courtesy of billionaire Ken Griffin, Illinois’ richest man.

All three Chicago Police Department detective areas now have high-tech nerve centers capable of processing videos from private surveillance cameras and cell phone footage much faster than before.

“The kinds of things that they are now able to do with technology we only thought was possible by watching television or watching movies. We now have those capabilities at our fingertips. And that will dramatically enhance the ability of detectives to use 21st-century technology to solve crimes,” Lightfoot told reporters at Area Central, 51st and Wentworth.

“ATC’s allow detectives to work with residents and local businesses to operate video systems or extract footage when there’s an incident near their home or business.”

Area South got its nerve center in late February, courtesy of Griffin’s $10 million gift to CPD last year. The center already has processed over 700 requests. Now, Areas Central and North have the same capability.

“Several of these requests have resulted in the arrest of violent offenders, including the individuals connected with the off-duty murder of Chicago Police officer John Rivera,” Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Thursday.

“In a separate homicide case, our detectives and the ATC team recovered private video footage of the particular shooting along with the suspect’s vehicle. After obtaining a search warrant, the team extracted data from the suspect’s cell phone revealing a text message conversation in which the suspect admitted the homicide.”

Ultimately, the goal is “less evidence will be lost, investigations will move quicker and clearance rates will increase,” the mayor said.

“Individuals who have experienced a violent crime and endured trauma that follows want answers. … Families who have lost a loved one to the scourge of gun violence deserve answers. And that requires investing in innovative technology that allows our detectives to be held to a high standard, do their jobs efficiently and give victims and families answers,” the mayor said.

Thanks to the technology centers, weekend violence will no longer be a challenge when it comes to processing crime scene video from local businesses.

“We’d have to wait for the owner of the establishment to come back to work, call us, tell us to come over there and they would show us the video on their system. We don’t have to do that anymore,” he said.

Sean Malinowski is the newly-retired chief of detectives for the Los Angeles Police Department who has worked as a consultant to CPD for the last two years. He’s now moved here for a job at the University of Chicago Crime Lab.

Los Angeles, he noted, had 10,000 officers and 1,800 detectives, compared to Chicago’s 12,000 officers and 800 detectives. Chicago has been “suffering” from “too few detectives at the time, a dramatic increase in the number of cases they were investigating from one year to the next and too little technology applied to those cases,” Malinowski said.

“They’ve significantly improved their ability to clear these cases. More detectives. Better technology. … I see great progress here.”

Malinowski thanked Griffin for supporting crime-fighting and for also “being very flexible in how” his $10 million gift “is applied to the problems that we’re facing.”