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Aldermen Grill Top Cop On Station Closings, Officer Deployment

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Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy testifies before the Chicago City Council at a city budget hearing on Oct. 27, 2011. (Credit: CBS)

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy testifies before the Chicago City Council at a city budget hearing on Oct. 27, 2011. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Police Supt. Garry McCarthy was on the hot seat at City Hall on Thursday, as aldermen demanded to know why he plans to close police stations and how he’s deploying police officers.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports that McCarthy was ready for them, bringing 20 members of the department’s top brass to the budget hearing with him.

The hearing was surprisingly calm, even though significant issues were on the agenda and new ones were raised Thursday morning by the American Civil Liberties Union.

But McCarthy came prepared with facts and a whole lot of backup.

They entered the City Council Chambers in a wave. The superintendent, who bragged of cutting the ranks of top managers, had just about everyone left in tow, claiming the department was doing more with less.

“We are working with the resources we have to keep this city safe and over the past three months, we have proven that we could do a great deal with what we have,” McCarthy said.

Aldermen raised questions about the deployment of officers, triggered by data obtained by the Chicago News Cooperative that showed 296 officers assigned to the Near North Distrct – covering the Magnificent Mile and the Gold Coast, where there were 313 violent crimes from this January to August. Or just more than one violent crime per officer.

At the same time, in the Grand Crossing District covering the South Shore neighborhood, there were 320 officers handling 1,278 violent crimes in the same timespan. Or, nearly four violent crimes per officer.

McCarthy said that was changing.

“The top 12 districts for shootings have received 583 of the 881 officers redeployed to date,” McCarthy said, referring to the hundreds of officers moved from desk duties and other assignments to beat patrols.

Earlier Thursday, the ACLU had filed a lawsuit on behalf of West Side residents, complaining about the lack of officers in their neighborhoods. The lawsuit contended that minority communities have longer response times to 911 calls than other parts of the city.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, while visiting a South Side charter school Thursday morning, said he’s working on the problem.

“We have applied more resources to the areas that need them and we’re not done,” Emanuel said.

McCarthy told aldermen this afternoon there was proof the strategy was working.

“Three consecutive months now of week by week reductions in the vicinity of 20 percent is very significant to show that we’re getting traction on our crime reduction efforts,” McCarthy said.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

McCarthy also said he wants to establish a police foundation to raise money for a Chicago crime lab. Evidence in crimes in the city is now sent to the Illinois State Police crime lab and McCarthy said it can take six to eight months to get back ballistics results – far too long.

He also said he wants to deploy gunshot detectors in some neighborhoods as was done when he was a police officer in New York City.

“What I’ve found is that in communities where people have given up hope, they don’t even call the police when shots are fired and as a result of having gunshot technology in the right places, we were responding to shots fired calls without a 911 call and making arrests of people with guns,” McCarthy said.

Overall, what had promised to be a pretty heated affair – with some aldermen upset about the closing of police stations in their wards and others riled up by statistics which seemed to show their high-crime areas being shortchanged – was largely defused by McCarthy’s mix of common sense and statistics.

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