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Daley crime strategy includes thousands more surveillance cameras and drones

Bill Daley

Mayoral hopeful Bill Daley. | Rich Hein / Sun-Times

Mayoral candidate Bill Daley on Thursday unveiled an ambitious crime-fighting strategy that calls for “thousands” more surveillance cameras, drones to watch the bad guys from above and $50 million for gang intervention.

Chicago’s network of 29,000 public and private surveillance cameras is already billed as the largest “federated” system in the nation.

But if Daley is elected mayor, that will only be the beginning. His Big Brother surveillance network would also make heavy use of drones.

“Criminals will often look around, see if there’s a police officer or police car close by and, if there isn’t or they don’t see it, they’ll move ahead with their actions,” Daley said Thursday.

“If we do this right with aerial surveillance and drones, they will have to question whether or not they’re being watched and they don’t even know it. That’s a deterrent. And you can move these drones quickly if there is a shooting. They can move a heckuva lot faster than police cars can through traffic.”

The Chicago Police Department currently uses no drones, according to CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

The American Civil Liberties Union has argued that the city has too many cameras and that Chicagoans are being watched too closely.

Daley couldn’t disagree more.

“I’d have as many cameras as we could buy so the people could feel safer wherever they’re at … I’d have a camera on every block in the city if I could,” he said.

Daley is the third mayoral candidate to propose a Mayor’s Office of Violence Prevention and Reduction but the first to commit $50 million to it.

He’s not talking about building another City Hall bureaucracy. He wants to “establish partnerships with community-based street intervention programs” and bankroll “promising diversion programs” like Chicago CRED and Heartland Alliance’s READI program that put at-risk youth on a path to legitimate work through training and intensive counseling.

Yet another element of Daley’s plan is a “centralized and coordinated anti-gang strategy” in a city with about 60 gangs, 600 factions and 100,000 members.

He would start by scrubbing the city’s controversial gang database that is now the subject of a federal lawsuit.

“I want to focus on the real gang members—not someone who gets dragged into it by virtue of [whether] they have a certain color T-shirt on. That may be evidence of something. But I want to see a gang database that has the real leaders of these gangs,” he said.

“These are the leaders of big, corrupt businesses. These aren’t just social clubs watching the Bears or watching some soccer game on the weekend. That’s all b.s. These are big businesses.”

The consent decree outlining federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department calls for 40 hours of annual training for police officers, starting next year.

Daley wants to speed up that timetable. He would also allocate additional funds to “fully staff” gang units “with talented officers skilled in intelligence gathering.” He would abolish merit promotions to “de-politicize” the promotion process.

A position paper released by the Daley campaign also takes a thinly-veiled swipe at County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, whose bail-reform initiatives to reduce the population of Cook County Jail have alienated police officers who live on the Northwest and Southwest Sides.

“County leaders have openly retreated from enforcing gun laws, and prosecutors and judges are imposing less than the maximum fines or sentences allowable under the law,” the paper states.

“Gun shops in suburban Cook County, inches from the city line, send thousands of guns each year into our neighborhoods while the state and county do little to stop them.”

Preckwinkle countered that county officials have “done the best we can” given the “parameters that we’ve had in terms of decisions by the Supreme Court around the 2nd Amendment.” She noted that she is a “strong proponent of reasonable gun laws.”

If Daley can get a little help from tougher gun laws in Springfield, he truly believes he stands a chance to reduce both shootings and homicides by 75 percent over four years.

“It’s a stretch. I agree. But if you don’t have a real stretch goal, you’ll settle for mediocrity. This is priority number one. This is a crisis we’re in. The future of this city is being impacted dramatically in every neighborhood,” he said.

Daley was asked where he would find the money for a $50 million crime prevention office, thousands of additional cameras and drones.

“You have a $1.6 billion police budget. It’s risen $330 million over the last seven years. We spent $40 million this year on legal settlements. There’s a lot of money. We’ve got to use it more efficiently,” he said.

“What’s the alternative? We settle for 2,600 shootings-a-year and celebrate that? Or 450 or 500 murders and say, `OK, it wasn’t as bad as before?’ Come on. A little outrage here about what’s going on in our city is needed.”

Contributing: Rachel Hinton