Mayor Emanuel, Superintendent McCarthy Announce “Play Safe, Stay Safe” Parks Initiative

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry F. McCarthy announced that starting later this month, additional police patrols will be deployed in 20 parks to help prevent crime and boost enrollment in family-centered parks programming. The parks were identified jointly by the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Park District and based on a review of crime and Park District needs.

“This critical effort will help keep our parks safe for all residents and encourage parents to enroll their children in the many programs and classes offered through the Park District,” said Mayor Emanuel. “This program will push for the same results as Operation Impact and foot patrols, and is another neighborhood investment in our children and their safety.”

“While we’re seeing real progress this year with the continued reduction of crime and violence throughout the city, there’s more work to be done and this initiative is an important enhancement of our existing comprehensive policing strategy,” said Superintendent McCarthy. “This flexible deployment strategy will enhance public safety in neighborhood parks and ensure they belong to residents and families.”

The initiative will include two officers on overtime per park, patrolling four-hour shifts in the evening to provide extra security when the parks are open but Park District staff have left for the day. In areas where the Park District is trying to boost program enrollment, Police District Commanders will also prioritize patrol during the day.

While the patrols will be assigned to specific parks, their assignments may change throughout the year based on a constant review of crime patterns and shifts in Park District activity due to weather. The cost of the additional police overtime associated with this initiative will be covered by the Chicago Park District.

This new parks initiative is an expansion of the successful Operation Impact, which saturates high crime areas with police resources. That strategy has resulted in a 44% decrease in murders and 45% decrease in shootings within the impact zones.

In the ongoing effort to address gun violence, Superintendent McCarthy also announced Chicago Police have seized 5,970 firearms to date in 2013. Chicago Police recover more illegal weapons than police in any other city in the country, yet due to lax penalties in state law the dangerous criminals who carry them are not punished adequately or consistently.

Several notable incidents this past week underscore the challenge Chicago Police officers face in their efforts to recover illicit guns and ensure greater public safety.

Officers assigned to the Austin (15th) District conducting a saturation mission observed a suspicious individual seated in a vehicle in an area known for narcotics sales. As officers approached to conduct a field interview, the male subject exited his vehicle and attempted to flee. Officers were able to apprehend the subject and a subsequent protective search revealed the offender to be in possession of a loaded .25 caliber semi-automatic handgun with a defaced serial number. The offender, a convicted felon with prior weapons offense convictions, was charged with unlawful use of weapon and possession of firearm with defaced serial number.

In another incident, Harrison (11th) District tactical officers responding to a “shots fired” call arrived and observed a male fitting a radio description running from the scene. Officers gave chase and observed the offender discard an unknown object during the pursuit. Responding officers were able to recover the object and place the offender into custody. Further investigation led officers to recover a semi-automatic Tec 9 machine pistol. The offender was later charged with unlawful use of weapon by felon and possession of controlled substance

In an additional example, a female victim approached Harrison (11th) District officers responding to a disturbance and informed them that an unknown male offender in a grey van had pointed a gun at her. Officers toured the area and located the van and a subject matching the victim’s description seated inside. Officers continued their investigation and discovered a 40 caliber automatic handgun in the offender’s vehicle. The offender was arrested and consequently charged with unlawful use of weapon by felon.