By Don Babwin
CHICAGO — With the number of shootings in Chicago already climbing with the temperatures, police are being dispatched by the hundreds on overtime to high-crime neighborhoods, parks, public housing buildings and other spots around the city to combat the spike in crime that comes every summer.
"The summer months is our busy season ... and we have to ramp up our response to violence in the city," Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said in an interview with The Associated Press.
McCarthy said that the effort, called "Summer Surge," is similar to what he did last summer when as many as 400 officers working overtime were sent to high-crime areas every day, an expensive initiative that helped drive the cost of police overtime to $100 million last year. That effort won widespread praise as a big reason why the number of homicides dropped to 415 — still tops in the nation but nearly 90 fewer than were recorded in 2012.
McCarthy has said he doesn't expect to spend that much money on overtime this year, but the City Council has set aside about $70 million for overtime and McCarthy said that Mayor Rahm Emanuel "has made it very clear if we need more overtime for more initiatives, he will find a way to fund it."
This year, he said, the Chicago Transit Authority, the city's Park District and the Chicago Housing Authority will help pay for the overtime for the officers, with the department saying that more than 100 additional offices will be assigned to those spots on weekdays, with more than 200 more officers assigned there on weekends and more than 300 additional officers assigned there on holiday weekends throughout the summer.
Though the department has been planning this effort long before the spring, Wednesday's announcement comes after three consecutive weekends in which at least 30 people were shot and at least 16 people were killed. Among those were a woman who was shot to death in front of her home after attending a fundraiser for an anti-violence group and a 14-year-old girl who was shot and killed Monday, allegedly by another 14-year-old girl on the city's South Side in what police say was a fight over a boy.
In that case, more details emerged during a court hearing for one of three people arrested after Monday's shooting of Endia Martin. The Cook County State's Attorney's office said prosecutors alleged that 25-year-old Donnell Flora got on a bus and delivered a handgun at his niece's request, knowing that she was going to be involved in a fight. Flora allegedly took the gun after his niece shot Endia in the back and another girl in the arm, and attempted unsuccessfully to discard it.
Flora is, like his niece, charged with murder. A third suspect, another juvenile, is also in custody charged in connection with the shooting.
McCarthy said the case provides a "classic example of the cycle of violence... that exemplifies what we are up against," explaining that Flora is a known gang member who did not cooperate with investigators after a shooting in 2010 left him in a wheelchair.
McCarthy, who has long complained about the ease with which illegal guns find their way into the city and into the hands of people willing to shoot them, said investigators were still trying to determine how the gun that was reported stolen from a car on the city's South Side two weeks ago made its way to a street.
To help break the cycle of violence, McCarthy said the department has expanded its "custom notifications" effort launched last year in which officers knock on the doors of gang members to warn them — and their family members — that the shooting has to stop. This effort, which includes giving gang members information about social services and even includes setting up meetings with the parents of murder victims, has been expanded throughout the city.
McCarthy said what was a pilot program when it started last year is now the largest initiative of its kind in the United States.
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Copyright 2014 The Associated Press