Chicago Police Use New Technology With Hope To Reduce Violence

CHICAGO (CBS) — January was another month with an increase in murders and shootings in Chicago, but two of the most violence-prone police districts have started using new tools aimed reducing those numbers by anticipating where violence may happen.

In the 7th (Englewood) and 11th (Harrison) Districts on the South and West Sides, police now staff Strategic Decision Support Centers or “hunch centers” for short.

Because of ShotSpotter technology, they are able to hear gunshots and zero in on their location. WBBM’s Bernie Tafoya reports.

Supt. Eddie Johnson said some officers will also have smartphones in the field with ShotSpotter capabilities.

“The ability to receive mobile ShotSpotter notifications and access intelligence data will help the police officers reduce the response time,” Supt. Johnson said. “And, in some instances, make the difference between life and death.”

Supt. Johnson said staff in the “hunch centers” will analyze current and previous incidents of violence in real time in the hopes of anticipating where officers should be deployed next.

“What this does is pinpoint where that shot came from,” Johnson said. “And we respond quicker because we don’t have to wait for that 911 call.”

Information Services Deputy Chief Jonathan Lewin offers the example of an officer who heard gunshots in near where he was. There was another officer using a smartphone with ShotSpotter technology in the field.

“It provided an exact location of that gunshot event, which turned out to be in a yard at a specific location. That sergeant went on the air, responding units when to that yard, observed two subjects fighting, a foot chase ensued. One of the subjects was apprehended with a loaded firearm,” Deputy Chief Lewin said.

Strategic Decision Support Center (WBBM/Bernie Tafoya)

Strategic Decision Support Center (WBBM/Bernie Tafoya)

Supt. Eddie Johnson said that technology and computer analytics will help officers staffing the so-called “hunch center” be able to better deploy officers to areas where problems are most likely to occur.

He said the police department plans “to create a culture of accountability among gun offenders to make them think twice about picking up a gun or pulling the trigger.”

In January, there were 51 murders, 234 shootings and 299 shooting victims. Murders were up by one over January of 2016 and shooting victim numbers were up by 8 over 2016.

Supt. Johnson said officers made twice the number of gun arrests and confiscated 60 percent more guns last month than they did in January 2016.

He said three districts, the 7th, 11th and 15th on the South and West Sides accounted for half of the murders in the city last month.

Johnson reiterates that, “The simple fact is, the way we get the numbers down is to hold repeat gun offenders for the crimes that they commit.”

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