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October 06, 2007
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Chicago mayor promises more cops and cameras

By Gary Washburn
The Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO The city plans to hire 50 new police officers next year, transfer a similar number of veterans from desk jobs to the street and hire another 50 in 2009, Mayor Richard Daley said Thursday.

Daley acknowledged that critics contend the planned reinforcements to the 13,600-officer department are too meager. But, peeved, he said everyone has to face reality.

"We need 5,000," he said. "Put that down: 'Mayor says 5,000.' Some aldermen want 10,000, some 100,000. Let's be realistic. We have to live within our budget."

The new officers are being hired despite a $193 million budget gap Daley plans to fill with a menu of tax and fee increases he will unveil next week at a City Council meeting. The long list includes raising property taxes by $108 million and increasing the levy on everything from beer to city stickers.

As Daley tries to show taxpayers what they will get for their money, he also announced the acquisition of 100 more surveillance cameras, bringing the number of police cameras to 559 citywide.

But gunshot detection technology that would allow 911 center staffers to pinpoint the location of a weapon being fired a feature announced with fanfare by Daley a few years ago when an earlier batch of devices was purchased still isn't ready for deployment. Bugs remain to be worked out, and the city will not spend the money to buy the technology until it becomes dependable, he said.

Speaking at a West Side news conference, Daley reminded reporters of critics who complained the cameras were invasive when he introduced them in 2004.

"They underestimated people who live in this city people who have to deal with gangs guns and drugs on a daily basis," Daley said. "All wealthy people have cameras in all the high rises, suburban areas. ... Why can't the average person in the city of Chicago? Everyone wants a camera. They want to have a camera in front of every home, every block, because they feel much safer."

Over the last 20 months, criminal activity captured by police cameras "directly assisted" in making 1,458 arrests, said interim police Supt. Dana Starks. In the first murder case the cameras may have helped solve, police a few months ago nabbed a suspect in the killing of a 14-year-old boy who was shot not far from the street corner at 23rd Street and Marshall Boulevard where Thursday's news conference was held.

Earlier camera models featured boxy housings painted in checkerboard police fashion and had flashing blue lights, but some people complained they were too obtrusive. The devices now are more compact with no lights and resemble street lamps.

Copyright 2007 Chicago Tribune

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