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More than 1,500 extra cops to be out during holiday weekend to curb shootings

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson announces the department’s plans for Fourth of July deployment with federal and state partners during a press conference at CPD Headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave., Tuesday, July 3, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

As the historically violent Fourth of July weekend approaches, the Chicago Police Department announced Tuesday that more than 1,500 additional officers would be dispatched across the city in an effort to tamp down crime.

“Expect to see a larger police presence throughout the city,” Supt. Eddie Johnson said at a press conference. “On the lakefront, parks and CTA stations and on city streets.”

Johnson said the influx in manpower will afford departmental leadership more flexibility in their deployments. Those additional officers will be drawn from the departments organized crime and detective divisions, as well as district stations.

Mobile command centers will also be set up across the city, and the department’s Strategic Decision Support Centers — real-time crime analysis centers in the city’s most violent areas — would be fully staffed throughout the holiday weekend.

Those SDSCs are equipped to detect gunshots and deploy officers without someone calling 911 with ShotSpotter — toaster-sized boxes that can detect the sound of gunfire.

In the past, fireworks have proven tricky to parse out from gunshots, and Johnson said the CPD is working with the company that manufactures the ShotSpotter boxes to improve their accuracy.

“Fireworks [are] always a concern in terms of ShotSpotter,” Johnson said. “We don’t want to give out our playbook, but we do have some plans in place to rectify that.”

Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi added, “I know we’ve been looking at things on their end, in terms of interpreting the sound that might be able to help. I’m not going to disguise the fact that it’s going to be a challenge.”

Over the five-day holiday weekend in 2017, 14 people were killed and 87 more were wounded in shootings across the city. In 2016, when the holiday weekend was one day shorter, four people were killed and 62 others were wounded in citywide shootings.

As local and federal law enforcement agencies pledged an all-hands-on-deck approach to stifling holiday weekend violence, pastors and elected officials announced hearings across the state to examine the city’s violence.

Lawmakers and clergymen hold a press conference on July 3, 2018 announcing public hearings on systematic violence throughout Illinois, according to a press release. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

State Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, said Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner needed to “step up” their response to shootings in the city.

The group was called together by Anthony Williams, a pastor and anti-violence activist. In February, Williams’ son was shot dead, prompting him to look for ways to advance the conversation around what he called “systemic violence” in Illinois.

There was a time when Bishop Larry Trotter, who spoke in support of the hearings, looked forward to answering phone calls from congregants.  “When I go into the office now, I hate to hear the phone ring, especially during the holiday time, because it could be another parent, grandmother raising a child [who was] shot” Trotter said.

Trotter plans to attend Father Michael Pfleger’s shut-down of the Dan Ryan Expressway, which he hopes will serve, like the planned hearings, to draw attention to the scale of the problem. Leo Schmitz, director of the Illinois State Police, said Tuesday that protesters who try to get onto the expressway may be arrested.

Hearings could start as early as next month in Ford’s Restorative Justice Committee in the Illinois House.

Through the first six months of 2018, Chicago had recorded 254 murders, down from the 331 seen in the first six months of 2017, according to police data. The city had seen 268 fewer shooting incidents overall in that same time period.