McCarthy On Expanded Safe Passage Program: ‘This Is True Community Policing'
CHICAGO (CBS) – The city's top cop said he's pleased with how things have been going so far, as children head back to their first day of classes.
WBBM Newsradio's Regine Schlesinger reports Police Supt. Garry McCarthy – whose department has been preparing for this day for months – said the first day of the expanded Safe Passage program has gone smoothly so far.
McCarthy said the tumult of transferring nearly 13,000 kids to new schools, because of the closing of 49 elementary schools, has had a silver lining.
“I'm seeing small groups of kids being walked to school by their parents, or their older brothers or sisters,” he said. “This goes to the heart of what we've been talking about since I've been here, which is … to me, this is an opportunity. This is true community policing.”
With a heavy visible police presence along the Safe Passage route for Charles W. Earle Elementary School at 62nd and Seeley – which replaced the now shuttered Goodlow Elementary Magnet School – and a police helicopter hovering overhead, McCarthy said, despite a few glitches, everything has been going well.
The Safe Passage program was added at 53 new schools this school year, after the Chicago Board of Education approved closing 49 elementary schools and one high school program in May. Another 35 schools already had Safe Passage routes in place.
In the Roseland neighborhood, underlying tension between schools now merged into one led to a show of force to keep kids safe.
Aside from police, city workers from several different agencies turned out to provide extra security along the Safe Passage route for Haley Elementary School, which was taking in students from nearby West Pullman Elementary.
In the past, students at the two schools have had an ongoing rivalry, which prompted tight security for the first day of class.
The goal is to make sure every morning is a good one, so Safe Passage workers, police, and other city workers have been assigned to line the route between Haley and the closed West Pullman campus.
Safe Passage workers admitted their presence at Haley is critical.
“This is a hot area,” Safe Passage supervisor Bob Jackson said. “West Pullman is closing. That's one set of gangs over there, and this area's saturated with cliques and gangs.”
Police officers on foot patrol, and in both marked and unmarked squad cars were patrolling the area Monday morning. Other city workers in orange and yellow vests stood on street corners to keep an eye out for trouble, and help calm parents' concerns.
For some parents, however, it still wasn't enough.
“I got a little safe ability with them being out here, but mine ain't going to be as safe, and I'm not going to feel as safe as I am, unless I'm walking mine myself,” Diane Bernard said. “So I will be a momma getting up every morning, walking my kids to school, even though they is out here.”
During the past three weeks, eight people have been shot along Safe Passage routes, though all of those shootings occurred before school started and the routes were staffed by trained Safe Passage workers, police officers, and other city employees.
The most recent shooting along a Safe Passage route was late Sunday night, when a 28-year-old man was shot in the neck in the 1400 block of South Tripp Avenue.
A week ago, five people were shot along a Safe Passage route in the Uptown neighborhood. One victim later died. Two weeks ago, two people were shot along a route in Bronzeville. One victim died in that shooting.
The superintendent said there are still challenges ahead, and added if this were a football game, it would still be the first quarter.
“We deploy based on crime trends. There's obviously going to be greater challenges in the afternoon than there are in the morning, okay? And we recognize that, and we will deploy accordingly,” he said.
Asked about three children shot on Sunday, one of them a 14-year-old killed in West Garfield Park, McCarthy pointed to crime statistics showing a dropping murder rate in Chicago, and offered his oft-repeated refrain of “progress, not success” in the fight against crime.
“Knock and talk” is smart community policing
Police are using a "knock-and-talk" tactic to enter homes and arrest suspects.
by Jim Mitchell
Sometimes the simple strategies yield the biggest payoff.
Dallas police are using a strategy called ”knock and talk” to gain entry into homes of small-time criminals. Based on a tip, they knock on the front door and ask to enter. Sometimes they find illegal stuff. Score one for the cops.
My concern, however, is that this quite legal, by-the-book strategy will grab low-hanging fruit and not much else. In the long run, small-timers will get smart to this tactic and force officers to get a warrant, as is their right. Also, I wonder whether officers using this tactic will walk into a situation that would put them at risk than they mght have anticipated.
For now, I give the DPD credit for smart community policing. Neighbors are the best eyes and ears in a community. Asking questions isn't a bad thing, especially if it gets a few bad apples off of the street.
Hartford Chief Cracking Down On Police 'Offices'
by JENNA CARLESSO and STEVEN GOODE
HARTFORD — — Police Chief James Rovella is cracking down on the department's little-known but longtime practice of maintaining under-the-radar "offices" inside local storefronts.
Rovella sent a memo to the deputy and assistant police chiefs on Aug. 16 asking them to provide a list of all such offices throughout the city.
The practice of police partnering with local business owners and landlords has been seen as beneficial for both sides — the police presence means crime deterrence for landlords, while a quiet room inside a local establishment can provide a welcome respite for officers.
But these makeshift offices, which have been a hallmark of community policing in Hartford for at least 20 years, aren't regulated, and it's not always clear how they're being used.
"We don't want to give the appearance of impropriety," Rovella said. "There's zero tolerance for drinking or sleeping [on the job]. How the community perceives us is important."
Rovella said he has not received any formal complaints about the offices, but he also wasn't aware of them until recently.
"It's no excuse not to have a process," he said. "It's one of those rocks I'm going to have to turn over in my administration."
In his memo, Rovella asked the chiefs to "detail who has access and by what means (i.e. keys, codes, etc.) ... What agreements do we have with the owner of the location. This is all info I want the [administrative sergeant] to be aware of and monitor."
Rovella has begun to compile a list of office locations in the city's north, south and central areas. It is unclear how many there are, he said, but "they are all over the place." Once he has a better idea of where they are, Rovella said he will shut down those that aren't strategically located or properly used.
Locations that had been used include spaces at 90 Bartholomew Ave., 30 Arbor St., 207 Main St. and a storefront on Wethersfield Avenue, sources told The Courant. Rovella said he has so far ordered at least one — on Bartholomew Avenue — closed.
"You may see a lot of them closing very soon," he said.
The offices that remain open will go through a formal process — the city council must approve space donated to the police department — and will be "loosely supervised" by administrative sergeants, Rovella said, so officers can maintain their independence.
"The key to this whole policing concept is supervision — what are the hours of operation, who has the keys or access cards," he said. "They don't need to be closely supervised, but they need structure so no possible abuse can occur."
A cost/benefit analysis will be done and memorandums of understanding will be created with the landlords at the sites that remain open, Rovella said.
"I never knew they were out there," Rovella said of the offices. "Some of my command staff never knew they were out there. They're at a much lower level."
Several police officers who spoke to The Courant on the condition of anonymity said they regularly use the offices to do paperwork, conduct surveillance, add their presence to a neighborhood or just stop in to use the bathroom.
"If you're trying to get rid of [criminal activity], you have to be there every day," one officer said.
And some city residents said they support having the officers embedded in the community.
Steve Harris, a retired firefighter and former city councilman who lives in the North End, said he liked the idea of officers having a place to go.
The practice provides a constant police presence in the neighborhoods, he said, and makes residents feel better.
"It gives cops an opportunity to forge relationships within the community," he said. But, he added, the practice should be supervised.
Larry Dooley, a managing partner of the Colt Gateway Project, said that he has provided office space to police and that it worked out well.
"Our residential and commercial tenants liked it," Dooley said. "It's definitely a model to reduce crime."
"There are advantages — the officers are visible," Rovella said. "They may interact with people, with kids. They may get a tip. They can do paperwork. But we don't want defendants being brought there."
Interviews with criminal defendants should happen at police headquarters or official substations, he said.
Mayor Pedro Segarra said that if the offices are managed properly, he supports keeping some open.
"We just can't license each and every place an officer decides he wants to use," Segarra said. "We need to make decisions about which ones are useful and necessary. The bottom line is this could potentially lend itself to some abuse. We have to control and manage these locations."
"The idea is for it not to be a getaway," Kyle Anderson, a city councilman who is chairman of the panel's public safety committee, said of the offices. "If it's something beneficial for community policing and it's supervised, I'm very supportive of it."
Use of the offices shouldn't be limited to community service officers, Rovella said. Once a formal process is in place, patrol officers, police on foot beats and others could have access to the spaces.
"The majority of them benefit the neighborhoods and begin with good intent," he said. "But we have to avoid the appearance of impropriety."