CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Thursday that a recent move to step up foot patrols in some of the most violence-prone neighborhoods is paying off.
They said “Operation Impact,” an effort to saturate high-crime areas with rookie officers on foot patrol and veteran officers working on overtime and days off is making those areas safer.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, although the mayor has statistics to back up his claims, some residents and business owners were skeptical that this was any more than a publicity stunt.
It was clearly a made-for-TV event on Thursday, as no newspaper or radio reporters were invited to join Emanuel, McCarthy and Gresham District Cmdr. Fred Waller as they walked down Langley Avenue in the Chatham neighborhood.
The trio greeted a few homeowners, while a heavy deployment of police stood by, just in case, blocking traffic, and making sure that those watching – many skeptical of the mayor’s claims that crime was down – didn’t get in the way.
“I can’t say it’s done too much, from what I can see,” said one woman, who works in the area twice a week.
Chatham resident Fred Blair said, “They’ve been in the area. I don’t think the violence is going to stop no time soon.”
Chatham resident Val Hall said he believes more foot patrol officers in the neighborhood might help “at that particular time, but once they get to the next block, then they [gang members] come to this block.”
But the mayor said crime statistics show crime is down, and that today’s event was more than just a photo op.
“Reality is more important than perception,” Emanuel said. “We’ve started something, which is these … strategic saturation areas. We’re already starting to see, obviously, crime was down in February by 50 percent, 69 percent in March, [and] April’s continuing in that trend.”
Madieye Gueye, whose popular African restaurant Yassa was just down the street from where the mayor and superintendent were greeting residents, said he’s already seen the impact of the first group of foot patrols.
“It’s getting better,” he said.
The mayor said the story of one woman he ran into, before reporters were allowed to shadow him, was more proof that “Operation Impact” was working.
“One mother, Elizabeth Jones, said, ‘You know, I now feel safe enough that my child can walk to school.’ That to me is the most important measure. That to me is what we’re supposed to be about.”
The Mayor’s point was that statistics show the people of Chatham and several other high crime communities are safer now than they were a year ago, even if only some of them feel safer.
That might explain his made-for-TV event, and others like it, as a way build momentum and community support for the new saturation strategy.