The commander of Chicago’s crime-ridden Englewood police district was kicked upstairs Monday – and replaced by respected gang enforcement commander Leo Schmitz – as part of a larger plan to stop the bleeding by targeting gangs and drug markets in the two most violent districts.
Together, the Englewood and Harrison districts accounted for 25 percent of the murders and shootings last year and one-third of those incidents during the first two weeks of January.
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy’s decision to replace Anthony Carothers as Englewood District commander comes as no surprise.
Carothers, brother of convicted former Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th), presided over a 40 percent increase in murders in the Englewood District last year while homicides fell slightly across the city as a whole.
During a Compstat meeting last summer, Carothers also got off on the wrong foot with McCarthy. On the hot seat for a spike in shootings, Carothers attributed the violence to 45 factions of Gangster Disciples within his district. But, when McCarthy pressed him for details, there was no clear evidence of a gang motive in most of the shootings.
McCarthy clearly wasn’t pleased with that performance. It was only a matter of time before Carothers was replaced.
The only surprise is the decision to replace Carothers with Schmitz, commander of the Gang Enforcement Division, widely respected for his street knowledge and tactical skills.
That’s how determined McCarthy is to stop the bleeding in Englewood.
The command change is part of a larger plan to saturate the Englewood and Harrison Districts with resources, put the gangs and drug markets out of business, round up the fugitives and make the clean-up permanent with help from a “network of community, faith-based and government resources.”
“For too long, crimes that have occurred in Englewood or occurred in Garfield Park or occurred in the west Woodlawn area – it was just kind of,’That’s what happens.’ But that’s basically allowing something and saying you can’t do anything about it, “ Mayor Rahm Emanuel told a news conference at the Englewood District station, 1438 W. 63rd Street.
“Just because it happens in Englewood doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. Just because it happens in Garfield [Park doesn’t mean] it doesn’t matter. It does matter. And the city is gonna come to bear on it.”
The mayor added, “None of us operate under any illusions. There are huge forces operating here. But after beginning to see a reduction in gun crime and a slight reduction in the murder rate, you have two parts of the city … driving about a quarter of the crime, which means you have to do something specific for them.”
The laser-like focus will include: 48 gang enforcement officers, 24 in each of the two districts; 64 narcotics officers, 32 in each district; 96 patrol officers in the Harrison District currently assigned to the area and other district assignments and 70 patrol officers in the Englewood District.
If it sounds like a new version of the now-disbanded Targeted Response Unit and Mobile Strike Force, McCarthy said it shouldn’t.
“The Targeted Response teams were uniformed police officers attacking crime in a neighborhood and then moving. It’s not a long-term strategy. This isn’t a sprint. This is a marathon,” McCarthy said.
Violence reduction initiatives are nothing new to the Englewood and Harrison districts. The city has tried almost everything to stop the bloodshed in those neighborhoods.
But after analyzing crime patterns for the last three years, McCarthy insisted that his strategy will be different.
It will pave the way for the “systematic elimination of narcotics markets” in each of the two districts, the “dismantling” of the “most violent gang” in each and the shutdown of liquor stores and gas stations with a history of violations.
The superintendent said he plans to “put gang members on notice that, the next time a member of their gang is involved in a violent episode, the Chicago Police Department and all of our law enforcement partners will bring every resource to bear on their gang to eliminate it.”
After identifying the “50 worst repeat offenders” in the two districts, the superintendent promised to “relentlessly arrest and prosecute them,” in part, through parole compliance checks, probation missions and home visits.
McCarthy admires the Ceasefire strategy first pioneered in Boston by criminologist David Kennedy and others. One of the central tenets is to identify the groups doing the killing and the drug dealing – then calling them into meetings with law enforcement and community leaders to tell them to stop or face severe punishment. If they do stop, they are promised help in finding jobs.
Kennedy, in his recent book “Don’t Shoot,” said the strategy was replicated with success in cities across the country. Police were initially skeptical that criminals would act rationally to such demands, but when crime plummeted in the targeted areas, the cops became believers, he wrote.
Previous Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis tried the strategy on the West Side, holding a “call-in” with gang members.
McCarthy, meanwhile, has already employed a “group accountability” strategy with the Maniac Latin Disciples gang, moving to target every member for criminal activity after the gang was implicated in the shooting of two young girls in a park on the Northwest Side in June. Hundreds of Maniac Latin Disciples have been arrested in the crackdown since then.
In a text message to the Chicago Sun-Times, Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields accused Emanuel of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
“This is a Band-Aid solution to a manpower problem. These officers are coming into the Englewood and Lawndale neighborhoods at the expense of other neighborhoods throughout the entire city,” Shields wrote.