Over the last few years, the murder rate in Chicago has been spiraling out of control, and this past January has been one of the most violent ones since 2002. With at least 42 murders in January, Chicago is on pace to match the 500 homicides in 2012.
Those numbers, along with the murder of teen Hadiya Pendleton, have been haunting Mayor Rahm Emanuel, so he teamed up with Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to take a stab at lowering the death toll.
Emanuel and McCarthy Increase Police Presence
To tackle the rise in murders, gang violence, and crime, Emanuel and McCarthy have announced that they will be transitioning 200 police officers from desks to patrol. The plan is to put an overwhelming police presence in high crime areas. By the end of March, all 200 police officers will be on the streets.
According to the city's reports, there are 428 police officers doing office work that could be done at a lower cost by a civilian. So as the 200 police officers transition to active duty, civilians will fill the vacated desks.
This move by Emanuel and McCarthy has struck up controversy among Chicago leaders, as well as citizens. The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields is not as keen on putting civilians in the clerical roles.
"I think it's really going to take about three civilians to truly do the work of one skilled Chicago police officer," said Shields, who took it a step further, adding, "You don't even know if these people that you're hiring are gang bangers, or family of gang bangers."
Chicago Residents Speak Out
Locals from around the Chicago metro area have opinions on the city's crime rate and the announcement that more police will be on the streets. Here's what a few had to say:
"The real problem is not guns, but drugs. Find a way to rehabilitate drug users, and the gun problem will no longer be an issue," said Kyle Stewart of Lakeview.
Drew Martindale, from Avondale, said, "Get rid of the strict gun laws, and there will be less crime. Putting more cops on the street is not going to solve the problem. Chicago is a great example of gun laws that don't work."
"Many of these criminals are teens and young adults," said Joan Harrison, Evanston resident. "Start with lowering unemployment so they have opportunities instead of time to kill."
"I'm all for more police on the streets. It makes me feel safer seeing them around my community. We need all the help we can get, and I hope this is the solution, because there aren't many to choose from," Michelle Crowley of Uptown said.
Bridgeport resident Marie Hernandez said, "Ever since Rahm took over, the crime has increased. I don't trust his guidance, and putting more cops on the street makes me leery of how well the desk jobs will be carried out. Illinois has already let one murderer out of jail on accident -- will this happen again? Will evidence be tampered with?"
There were also comments about Emanuel eliminating the old saturation teams when he took office and rebuilding them now with unfamiliar cops.
"Crime would not have risen to where it has if the mayor had not dissected the saturation teams when he took office. He deconstructed the teams who were experts of each territory and is replacing them with officers that may not know the particulars of the community they are being assigned," Josh Novak of Bucktown said.
Executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization Jawanza Malone echoed Novak's sentiment, saying, "The police we had, and the beat cops that we knew were all replaced and the commanders we had relationships with were all gone."
Janoa Taylor is a freelance writer with a background in business and finance. She offers a unique local perspective gained from years as a Chicago resident.