CHICAGO (CBS) – Police Supt. Garry McCarthy has conducted another shake-up of his top commanders, as part of his continuing effort to cut down on the rise in shootings and homicides this year, moving seven commanders to new posts.
While some say it’s just moving the shells around, others – like January Overton – say it’s a game-changing shakeup.
CBS 2’s Brad Edwards spoke with Overton, who believes a command change in her community could save the neighborhood.
The changes McCarthy enacted Wednesday mean 19 of the city’s 23 district commanders have been replaced since McCarthy became the city’s top cop in May 2011.
The most prominent change Wednesday was the move of Cmdr. Joseph Gorman – who led the department’s gang investigations unit – to head up the Deering District, which covers the South Side neighborhoods of Armour Square, Bridgeport, Back of the Yards, Fuller Park, Gage Park, and McKinley Park.
“I think it’s incredible. I mean, we couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Overton said. “I truly believe that this is gonna change drastically what’s happening on our block, and in the area.”
Overton has been behind a nearly one-woman crusade against gangs that have enveloped her Bridgeport block.
Gang members have tagged her garage; she has filed 10 different police reports; her husband has been beaten just last week.
“Constant, just being intimidated by them,” she said. “They’re just terrorizing us.”
The Deering District – which is bordered by the Stevenson Expressway on the north, the Dan Ryan on the east, Garfield Boulevard on the south and Kedzie Avenue on the west – has seen an alarming increase in shootings in the past 12 months, making it one of the most violent areas in the city.
Murders in the district are up by 50 percent from year-ago levels, and Deering led all 23 Chicago Police districts in shootings last month.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts Reports
Gorman said a dozen gang factions “raise his antennas,” none of which he will name, saying he doesn’t “want to give them credibility.” He said he has lots of intelligence about them from his previous assignment, and said he will not be afraid to call in federal law enforcement agencies to help with the clean-up.
As he took over the reins of the Deering District, Gorman said, “I’m gonna make that an emphasis within the 9th District, is to go after the gangs.”
Gorman is an expert on anti-gang tactics, and he’s no stranger to the Deering District. He spent 20 months as Deering’s midnight shift sergeant in the late 1990s.
So maybe it was appropriate that the overnight shift was the one he addressed first, telling those officers they can be “better than the best.”
He wouldn’t divulge his playbook for going after the gangs in the area, but said his marching orders for his officers will be simple. He doesn’t want them to be afraid to assert their authority.
“Go out and be the police, and let’s take back our neighborhoods,” he told his officers Wednesday.
Overton has gone from seriously considering renting out her house and moving away from the area, to feeling confident the change in command at Deering District will help lead to a drastic change in the neighborhood.
She has high hopes for Gorman, who said he’s told his officers, “It’s our city. It’s not the gangbangers’ city. It’s our city.”
Gorman said he’s excited about returning to the Deering District, because he sees talent.
He said his philosophy, in part, is: KISS, for “keep it simple, stupid.”