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Updated 03/04/12 – 11:29 a.m.
CHICAGO (STMW) — For the first time in decades, the Chicago Police Department is trimming the number of district stations from which its officers are based.
But Superintendent Garry McCarthy, in a news conference Saturday, promised that better policing will result.
“We feel that we’ve right-sized the districts as far as the number of officers that need to be there,” said McCarthy during a news conference at the Town Hall District station, at 850 W. Addison St., into which the old Belmont District is being merged.
The immediate changes, effective at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, trim the number of district stations from 25 to 23, while the patrol and detective areas will be trimmed from five to three.
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Two more districts will be merged this fall, when a new, high-tech combined district station is completed.
The changes could save the hard-pressed city as much as $12 million a year, but McCarthy said that is not what is driving the consolidation.
As a result, McCarthy said, he now can assign 80 more officers to the street, a number that will increase to 100 when the final two district consolidations take place.
He said that will allow the department to assign the officers to the same beats on a daily basis — allowing them to become better acquainted with the beat, its people and its challenges.
In the consolidation, only one police station closes completely — the 60-year-old Prairie Avenue building, at 300 E. 29th St.
Most of the Prairie Avenue District is becoming a part of the Wentworth District, with the Central and Deering Districts also taking pieces.
McCarthy acknowledges the worries of those who live near the Prairie Avenue station, but said they will prove to be unfounded.
“First of all, the officers don’t respond from the station house, like, for instance, firemen do,” he said. “The second thing is consolidating these districts, we didn’t just pick this out of thin air.”
McCarthy said the new beat, district and area lines are based on today’s crime statistics, not those of the distant past.
As recently as 2007, then-Supt. Phil Cline said he did not believe the redrawing of beat lines was worth the trouble.
McCarthy begs to differ.
“This is creating more efficiencies across the department,” he said.
And to those officers who will be working a beat instead of shuffling papers?
“It’s easy to swing into a Monday-Friday 9-to-5 type of existence,” he said. “The point is that’s not the way police work works. Criminals don’t work Monday through Friday 9-to-5, and we need to take every resource we canto put them on the street when we need them to prevent crime from occurring.”
He said it will upset some officers’ lives.
“If you want to do banker’s hours, you should be a banker, quite frankly,” he said. “Don’t be a policeman.”
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)