The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Chicago's Top Cop Wants To Expand 'Hot Zone' Crimefighting Strategy

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 4, 2013 10:40PM

AP Photo/Paul Beaty
Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy hopes to expand a strategy he says is responsible for reducing murders in high-crime areas after the city tallied a record low 14 murders in February.

The strategy is a saturation tactic that relies on police officers working overtime in targeted “hot zones,” and McCarthy says it resulted in no homicides in the 10 areas where the strategy was implemented. McCarthy said the total murders last month was the lowest number of any month since January 1957. McCarthy had more good news and said homicides — despite a bloody January — decreased from October 2012 through last month. The city recorded 156 murders during that span versus 186 for the same time frame from October 2011 to February 2012.

Two hundred police officers worked overtime in the 10 hot zones, and McCarthy says he would like to add another 200 to 10 more hot zones, determined by studying crime data across the city for a 3-year period. The practice frees up district commanders to deploy beat officers to other areas in their districts that require attention. These hot zones, according to McCarthy, cross district boundaries and only account for less than 2 percent of the city’s total area, but 10 percent of Chicago’s violent crime is located in these zones.

Despite the good numbers, McCarthy admitted it isn’t the ideal solution to what remains a major problem. Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Pat Camden agreed, saying the strategy was no different from those McCarthy ended, like the Mobile Strike Force. Camden said the best strategy would be to hire more police officers and questioned how long the city could afford the overtime to pay officers currently working in the hot zones.

McCarthy insists the department is hiring more officers and the overtime duty is available to anyone who signs up. Yet every press release we receive from the Mayor’s office touts moving police officers from desk jobs to beats.

McCarthy said the strategy will remain, for the time being.

“At the end of the day, the idea is to make sure that you can’t move around in that zone without seeing a police officer,” McCarthy said.