CHICAGO (CBS) — While murders and shootings through February in Chicago saw only a slight decline from last year, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said there was reason for optimism in the city’s two most violent police districts.
According to data from the Chicago Police Department, there were 44 murders last month, compared to 46 in February 2016. So far this year, there have been 94 murders in Chicago, compared to 98 during the first two months of last year.
However, Johnson said the two police districts that typically see the most gun violence – Englewood on the South Side and Harrison on the West Side – both had significant declines in February.
“We saw, over the same time period last year, in February, Englewood had a 60 percent reduction in shooting incidents, and Harrison had a 40 percent reduction. So those numbers are huge, and while it’s not success, that is progress, so it gives us room for optimism,” Johnson said on the CBS 2 Morning News on Wednesday.
The superintendent said a major reason for the decline was two new Strategic Decision Support Centers, which enable officers to better track crime in real time in both districts.
The 24-hour “situation rooms” at the Englewood and Harrison stations allow officers to monitor gunshot sensors across each district, access a network of surveillance cameras, track the locations of police units, and follow incoming calls for service.
Johnson said the new centers allow officers to reduce response times, leading to more arrests and lives saved.
“We’ve made an investment in those communities. We’ve blanketed those two areas with ShotSpotter technology, and that gives us the ability to respond to shots fired three to five minutes before the average 911 call,” he said.
The department plans to add more Strategic Decision Support Centers to four other districts by early spring, according to Johnson. The superintendent said the new technology also has boosted officer morale.
“We’re showing them that we’re supporting them, and investing in them,” he said.
Chicago’s gun violence again drew the ire of President Donald Trump during his first speech before Congress on Tuesday night, as he noted more than 4,000 people were shot in the city last year.
“This is not acceptable in our society,” Trump said.
The president repeatedly has referenced Chicago’s violent crime in public speeches and on Twitter, and has threatened to “send in the feds,” to fix the problem, though he hasn’t explained how.
Johnson said he has not spoken to the Trump administration about crime in Chicago, but said he would welcome their help, such as more federal agents or money for anti-violence efforts.
“We’ll welcome more agents, more federal funding for mentorship programs, economic development, you know, all those things we do need in Chicago. So if that’s what he means, and is going to send in, then we welcome it,” Johnson said.