Chicago Police Beef Up Patrols, Firepower

Chicago Police receive a briefing after a roll call at 68th and Marshfeld Streets on the south side of Chicago Friday, April 25, 2008. The Chicago police are increasing their presence on the south side after recent shootings. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
AP Photo/Paul Beaty
Police planned to increase patrols and put SWAT officers and specialized units on the streets of Chicago over the weekend, a show of force aimed at deterring violence like the three dozen shootings that left nine people dead last weekend.

"Weather permitting, we will have our helicopter up," said police spokeswoman Monique Bond, who said Thursday night was relatively quiet, with only four shootings, none fatal.

Police Superintendent Jody Weis personally inspected his troops Friday night before they hit the streets of Chicago's South Side neighborhood, kicking off the first weekend of beefed-up patrols to combat the recent wave of violence, reported CBS station WBBM.

"We want to let people know that we're not going to allow that flare-up of gang violence that we had last weekend," Weis said. "It's very important for the communities to feel safe, and we want to do everything within our power to make sure the communities remain safe."

Meanwhile, religious leaders said they had persuaded some churches to open their doors in the afternoons and evenings to protect people from gunfire.

On Friday, Mayor Richard Daley took the unusual step of calling together more than two dozen officials from the police department, schools, social service agencies and religious groups for a City Hall summit on the violence.

Afterward, he said it was just the start of a continuing dialogue about how to combat violent crime.

"I don't know why people think you're going to end something with a lot of police ... end something with a lot of guns, you don't," he said. "You have to have a combination of prevention and intervention and yes, yes, enforcement, but they all go hand-in-hand."

A fired-up Daley blasted the gun industry and called on parents and adults to do their part by intervening to help troubled youth and by working to keep others on the right path.

"I don't want people to wait for Mayor Daley to call a meeting. I want you to call a meeting in your home with your children and loved ones. I want you to go next door and talk to those children next door. I want the parents of the block to say, 'This block will be free of violence,'" he said.

It is key for children to be occupied in after-school or other programs so they stay out of trouble, especially when they're not in a classroom, Daley said.

Meanwhile, it was announced yesterday that Weis plans to arm and train the city's 13,500 officers with more powerful weapons, including equipping many with M4 carbines to match the firepower of the street gangs they have to face.

Chicago Police SWAT teams are already equipped with M4 carbines, but rank-and-file officers are currently only allowed to carry handguns.

The M4 is a short assault rifle used by the Marine Corps, and it fires more shots in less time than most handguns. The fully automatic version can fire up to 1,000 rounds a minute, although the magazines only hold from 20 to 30 shots.

Alternatives To The Way of The Gun

Tio Hardiman, executive director of CeaseFire, an anti-violence group, said young people need help finding alternatives to the streets.

"We need to go right to the corners and find out what some of these young people want to do, identify some employers that are willing to hire maybe 30 from this neighborhood, 30 from another neighborhood and try to get them hired somewhere so then we can get them off the corners."

But Daley said joblessness does not justify violence.

"When the killing is done, you still don't have a job, in fact, it greatly decreases the chances that you ever ... will have a job," he said.

Hardiman said he expected that violence would not be as bad this weekend because of the police presence and other steps by community groups, including his group's efforts to talk to gang members and mediate disputes. Last weekend, there were 36 shootings - at least 14 of which police believed were gang-related.

The recent violence followed a six-month period of deadly violence against Chicago public school students, reports CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers.

But Hardiman said he's concerned about possible repercussions from a shooting at a McDonald's on Monday night that left one man dead and four others injured.

The area where the shooting took place is believe to be a stronghold of the Gangster Disciples street gang and Hardiman said he's concerned that someone may try to retaliate.

Meanwhile, a group of ministers and other community leaders held a vigil at the site of this week's murder of five people at 76th and Rhodes.

"Get our community active and get the fear out it, the stigma of fear," said Rev. Robin Hood of Clergy Committed to Community. "Shootings bring fear but the people need to rise up and take the community back."

Friday night's rain and cooler weekend temperatures may cool tempers as well, but Hardiman says, "It's not really about the weather.

"It's nothing new, really. Last year, at the same time, we had a lot of violence," he told WBBM. "It's about a lot of people who can't get along out there."