UPDATED 06/12/12 – 4:15 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — In the wake of a rash of violent crime that has plagued the city in recent days, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy announced plans Tuesday to place officers on overtime so they can saturate the most troubled areas.
As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, McCarthy outlined his plans Tuesday morning during a speech at the Union League Club, 65 E. Jackson Blvd. One plan calls for placing officers on overtime so they can saturate areas where crimes have been happening and are expected to happen.
Officers will be able to work extra and longer shifts Thursday through Monday, and work on their days off. They will report to the police facility at 6120 S. Racine Ave. in the Englewood neighborhood, and will be assigned to different areas of the city as needed.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports
McCarthy said the cash-strapped city can and must afford the cost of overtime for police officers, to cut down on violence.
“We have an overtime budget that we were given, and we’re going to stay within our budget,” he said.
As he addressed the issues, McCarthy received a warm reception from the breakfast crowd at the Union League Club. But the leader of the city’s more than 12,000 sworn police officers did not shy away from the fact that his city now, by some measures, has a murder rate that is three times that of New York City.
“We have an unacceptable level of violence in the city of Chicago, we absolutely do, there’s no doubt about that,” McCarthy said.
Still, McCarthy said police have had some success — especially since a violent month of March — which he expects to build on with the overtime plan.
He also argued that violent crime numbers have actually gone down overall, despite what he says is a perception problem in the media.
“Would anybody believe me if I told you that murders in the city are down 17 percent in the last month? Probably not, right?” McCarthy said. “Would anybody believe me if I told you that shootings are down in the last two months; 10 weeks?”
That 17 percent figure refers to a reduction in murders in a 28-day period. McCarthy also credits his force with reducing shootings in nine of the last 10 weeks.
But the head of the city’s police union isn’t seeing much of a winning streak when it comes to reducing violence.
“The people in the city of Chicago know it’s more violent out there, than it was last year, or two years ago; and it’s just getting worse. It’s time to stop manipulating data, and actually be honest with citizens of Chicago,” said Michael Shields, president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police.
Shields calls the act of putting officers on overtime a Band-Aid solution that ignores the real problem.
“I don’t object to officers going out and getting overtime, but clearly this sends a message that there is a manpower shortage on the Chicago Police Department,” Shields said.
The union says the way to reduce crime is to hire more police officers.
Shields said, since McCarthy took over the department a little more than a year ago, the police force is down 700 officers, mainly due to retirement. He said failing to replace retired officers will mean more blood-spattered weekends.
“We need more officers hired, and the city of Chicago needs to stop balancing their budget at the expense of public safety,” he said.
McCarthy dismissed the union’s complaint about the overtime plan, saying he expected such rhetoric from a union that is pushing for the hiring of more officers.
“The justification for officers doesn’t come from a budget line,” he said. “It comes from crime analysis based on population … and that was never done in this city. I am not going to go around and around on this argument.”
A police spokeswoman said the overtime will be paid through the entire summer, and the initiative is likely to hit the city’s budget hard.
The overtime plan is not brand new. The Police Department set up a similar program last year.
But officials believe the recent spike in crime warrants resurrecting the plan. In some South and West Side neighborhoods, homicides are up 50 percent this year. Overall, homicides in the entire city are up more than 35 percent.
That all comes on the heels of a weekend marred by a rash of shootings – largely on the South Side – that left at least nine people dead and 53 wounded. Separately, four people were wounded in three violent mob attacks in and around the downtown area, in a flashback to a trend that terrified Chicago last summer.