08/08/2008

State Police to help Chicago stem violence

Related article:
Guard, state police may help Chicago PD

By Carla K. Johnson
The Associated Press

CHICAGO — After a noisy war of words between Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Mayor Richard Daley, state troopers have quietly started helping Chicago Police fight the city's violent crime.

Troopers made several arrests Wednesday, seized a gun, recovered a stolen car and tracked the movements of a handful of gang members "so the first night wasn't too bad," said Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent.

The Thursday announcement came as Chicago Police Department statistics show homicides in the city rose 18 percent through July compared with 2007.

Blagojevich was quick to do the math, pointing out last month there were "two murders a day in Chicago."

Trent said he worked closely with Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis for two weeks to develop a plan of cooperation. Weis said at a separate press conference Thursday that he was "very happy" about the new cooperation with ISP.

But as recently as last week, Daley mocked the governor for offering to send extra police to Chicago while the state is cutting its law enforcement budget. Blagojevich had surprised Daley on July 16 by offering to send state police or even the National Guard to battle "out of control" crime in Chicago.

A proposal to ticket speeders caught by new highway cameras would generate $40 million to hire more state troopers and possibly more Chicago police officers, Blagojevich said Thursday.

"If there's a way to work with Mayor Daley so he can hire more Chicago police officers so that they're not as outnumbered like they are right now, five-to-one by gang bangers, we'd like to do that," Blagojevich said.

The Associated Press requested comment from Daley's office. The mayor was in China as part of his efforts to refine the city's bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Trent would not say how many troopers are working with Chicago Police, but said he had read in the newspaper that the number was 50.

"I don't want to talk about numbers because obviously they're small," Trent said. "Come back and talk to me in a few months from now and ask me what the results are."

State police will patrol expressways near high crime areas in Chicago and nearby suburbs and help track the history of weapons used in crimes, Trent said. State criminal intelligence analysts will be reassigned to create a gang intelligence unit, he said.

The majority of Chicago's homicides are gang-related, police spokeswoman Monique Bond has said.

Statistics show 291 people were killed in the city between January and July. That's up from 246 in the same period in 2007 and 266 in 2006.

The city showed a 13 percent increase for the year during May and June. But 62 homicides in July increased that uptick to 18 percent.

"I always get nervous when people look at a very small period of time," Weis said Thursday. "You can't look at a 30-day period and make a lot of conclusions."

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