Reporting Jim Williams
CHICAGO (CBS) – Starting this week, Chicago police are changing their responses to 911 calls. They’ll no longer come right away to reports of things like criminal damage to property, vehicle thefts, garage burglaries, or other crimes in which the suspect is no longer on the scene, and the victim isn’t in immediate danger.
The move will free up the equivalent of 44 police officers a day for patrol duties.
CBS 2′s Jim Williams spoke to some Chicagoans who think it’s the wrong move for the police.
On the block where burglars broke into a home on Christmas Day, Carmen Curio has a strong opinion on the city’s new 911 response plan.
“I think that’s ridiculous. I think if there’s a burglary, they’ve got to come. It’s what we pay for. They have to come,” she said.
Ald. Nick Sposato (36th) said the constituents in his Northwest Side ward pay high property taxes, so it’s not asking too much for a police visit after a traumatic break-in.
“People are upset; they want to talk to a police officer. They want to know something is being done to prevent this in the future,” sposato said.
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy insisted crime prevention “in the future” happens when officers are on patrol, not tied up taking reports at the scene of non-violent incidents.
“I don’t mean to be flippant here, because I’ve been the victim of a burglary at least three or four times,” he said. “I’d rather have the officer on street, where he can prevent the shooting.”
Police said they will still respond to 911 burglary calls if the suspect is at the scene, or they’re if convinced the criminal can be arrested right away.
“You’re upset; you’re violated. It’s happened to me. So, you’ve got to weigh it, and I’m making tough decisions,” McCarthy said. “I’m making a tough decision, but I’d rather have that officer on the street, doing something to prevent the next shooting than – honestly – making somebody feel better, because they’re responding rather than talking to them over the phone.”
He’s making those decisions because of the city’s financial woes.
McCarthy said Chicago police respond to 70 percent of 911 calls, compared to 30 to 50 percent in other cities.
Police said officers will always take information about crimes at district stations, or over the phone – even if officers don’t respond in person.
CBS 2 Political Producer Ed Marshall contributed to this report.