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Chicago police to boost school presence

By Gary Washburn
Tribune reporter

CHICAGO, Ill. — New police patrols are headed for several troubled Chicago public schools, and about 50 other officers now in desk jobs will follow in an attempt to stem the rash of violence claiming a growing list of young victims, police Supt. Jody Weis announced Tuesday.

"We're targeting our resources at some of the troubled schools to address gang retaliation and other violence," Weis said at an anti-gun rally on the South Side.

The special patrols will begin Wednesday "at schools where we know problems exist," Weis said. "After spring break, we will be placing special attention on schools, deploying more officers from administrative positions to focus on the school environment. We will do whatever we can to keep our children safe."

The action comes after a series of shootings in city neighborhoods and last Friday's melee at Crane High School, during which one student was fatally shot and another critically injured in a beating.

Weis told reporters later that "three to five schools" will be targeted, but he declined to name them.

"I don't want to tip our hand," he said. "I want people to be surprised when they see the police out there. I want to make sure we don't get them any lead time [to know] that we're coming in."

Police spokeswoman Monique Bond said later that responses in some cases may not be readily apparent.

"There are certain kinds of deployments we want," she said. "They may be in plain clothes."

But the mere presence of police is no guarantee that violence will be prevented. At Crane, about a dozen officers and school officials were on duty every morning and afternoon in an attempt to keep peace but were unable to stop the fatal shooting of student Ruben Ivy last Friday.

"We tried to do the best we can, but we cannot control the illegal guns that are getting into the hands of the wrong people," Bond said.

Meanwhile, Rev. Michael Pfleger, an activist priest who joined Weis and Daley at the rally, said a $5,000 reward will be offered every time a young person is murdered in Chicago in an attempt to bring killers to justice.

St. Sabina Roman Catholic Church, where Pfleger is pastor, is among the churches and benefactors who so far have contributed $8,000 to the reward fund; public schools chief Arne Duncan said the Board of Education will contribute $2,500 whenever a public school student is a victim.

"If you shoot or kill our children, you will be found," Pfleger said. "Turn people in. ... Don't protect murderers. If you don't want to call the police ... call some church, some pastor, and let's bring them to police and let's get our murderers off the streets."

Pfleger also announced that protesters will convene at 11 a.m. the day after every fatal shooting in the Thompson Center plaza to demonstrate for state gun control legislation.

Mayor Richard Daley once again is backing a package of gun control legislation in Springfield, ranging from a ban on assault weapons to state licensing of gun dealers.

Capitol visitors must pass through metal detectors, but state legislators continue to resist reasonable proposals, the mayor said Tuesday.

Copyright 2008 The Chicago Tribune

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