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New CPD Policy: Does it Make Us Safer?

AP/Paul Beaty

Loyola students may find traveling off campus safer due to a new policy that will allow more police officers to patrol high-crime areas and respond to emergency situations.

According to a new policy implemented Feb. 3 and revised on April 10, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) is no longer responding in person to 911 calls reporting non-life-threatening crimes.

The policy, which has also been used in other large cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit, Houston and Newark, is aimed to reduce the number of violent crimes in Chicago by freeing up more officers, according to Michael Miedona, CPD police officer.

“It frees more police officers to respond to in-progress calls – the more emergency-type calls,” Miedona said.

CPD expects the new policy to free 44 officers per day in the department’s 12,000-officer force, according to Miedona.

The policy states that CPD will “provide an immediate response to all in-progress offenses and calls for service involving an imminent threat to life, serious bodily injury and major property damage/loss.”

Now, officers will have more resources to address crimes such as murders, rapes and armed robberies, rather than responding in person to reports of criminal damage to property, vehicle thefts, garage burglaries or other crimes in which the victim is not in imminent danger. The 911 calls about these lesser crimes will be transferred to the CPD’s Alternate Response Section (ARS), which will file police reports over the phone, Miedona said.

According to the ARS website, the call-taker will answer all incoming calls, determine the nature of the call for service, provide the appropriate police service and notify the Bureau of Detectives when required or warranted, as in the case of a murder or a major theft of over $10,000.

“What Chicago police are doing is questioning the need to respond to instances where there’s really nothing that the police can do, or where everything that the police would do is something that either could be done later when there’s more time or it could be done by a non-sworn officer,” said David Olson, graduate program director and professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Loyola.

A non-sworn officer is a citizen employee for the police department, who does not have the training or ability to make arrests.

“It’s really an issue of how the resources are being used,” said Olson, who also works part-time for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and has worked at the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority for almost 20 years. “For some criminal events, it doesn’t justify the expenditure of resources for police to [respond], particularly when there are other more serious crime issues occurring that more rightly justify police response and police resources.”

CPD has been concerned with the city’s increasing homicide rate this year, especially. In 2012, Chicago had 506 murders, the highest number since 2008, and this past January was the deadliest January since 2002 with 42 homicides, according to Jack Nicas’ Feb. 6 article in The Wall Street Journal.

According to news reports by several media outlets, including NBC, MSNBC and Business Insider, Chicago has been dubbed “America’s deadliest city” due to its high murder rate.

“Crime has gone up in the last year – at least murders – and that’s the most serious crime and that’s how the city will always be judged. That’s how the superintendant of the police will be judged – as to whether or not he can address the number of murders,” Olson said.

Rather than asking Mayor Rahm Emanuel for more police officers, CPD Superintendent Garry McCarthy has reallocated the officers that the department already has, according to Olson.

AP/Paul Beaty

“The mayor will not provide more money for police because that would mean increasing taxes, and the superintendent has to go with what the mayor says,” Olson said. “The issue with most governmental operations is either they’re being asked to do more with no more resources, or they’re being asked to do the same with fewer resources, and that’s kind of what’s going on with Chicago.”

Olson said the policy could theoretically save some money without increasing taxes, but some Chicago taxpayers are unhappy with the policy, and wonder where their tax money is going.

After the policy took effect, Chicago citizens began a petition against it. The petition, hosted by change.org, is called “Chicago Police Department: Continue answering and responding to all 911 calls.” So far the petition has gained 57 signatures.

In the description of the petition, it says, “The City of Chicago is not in the state to ignore calls regarding: criminal damage to property, vehicle thefts, garage burglaries or other crimes. Their duties are to serve and protect the citizens of Chicago. We cannot and should not allow such incompetent change to happen that will not protect the citizens, but only bring forth more crimes and cause innocent citizens to become more vulnerable to criminals.”

However, according to Olson, Chicago taxpayers need to understand the reasoning behind the policy before they get upset.

“The taxpayer needs to realize that we pay the police to serve and protect everybody,” Olson said. “In the grand scheme of things, I’m a lot safer by getting a murderer or rapist off the street than getting a kid who spray painted my garage caught.”

Olson said the same holds true for students at Loyola.

“If a student at Loyola had someone break their car window or smash the headlight of their car … hopefully the student would realize it’s better that [the police are] out on the West Side of Chicago trying to stop murders than coming and seeing why someone broke their headlight,” Olson said.

Although CPD may not respond to certain 911 calls, the Department of Campus Safety will still respond to all on-campus calls from Loyola students. Campus Safety’s jurisdiction includes any building Loyola owns, as well as the northern boundary of Pratt Boulevard, the western boundary of Glenwood Avenue and the southern boundary of Glenlake Avenue.

“Anyone who requires our assistance, whether it’s off campus or on campus, can call 773-508-6039 [the Campus Safety non-emergency number] and we’ll respond,” said Tim Cunningham, Campus Safety’s student community liaison officer. However, Cunningham added that Campus Safety does not respond to incidents that occur several miles from campus.

However, within two weeks alone, between April 10 and April 23, 58 crimes occurred in Rogers Park, the neighborhood that many Loyola students call home. According to the Chicago Police Department’s Clear Map online analysis, among these crimes were one homicide, one criminal sexual assault, two aggravated assaults, five robberies and six accounts of aggravated battery.

Junior Dainis Berzins, 21, has been the victim of two muggings in Rogers Park in the past two years, before CPD’s new policy took effect. The first mugging occurred on West Arthur Avenue within Campus Safety’s jurisdiction, so Berzins said he called Campus Safety to pursue the incident.

Berzin’s second mugging, though, occurred off campus near the 7-Eleven on Pratt Boulevard, just outside the jurisdiction of Campus Safety. After the incident, Berzins said he and his two friends flagged down a CPD officer on patrol to ask for help.

“Later, we got calls from one of the investigators at the CPD who said they might have found some guys who had done it,” Berzins said. “They really followed up on it and called us to talk. They tracked down the gas station where [the suspects] used my friend’s credit card.”

Berzins said CPD’s new policy could potentially help Loyola students who are victims of similar crime in the future by freeing up more officers to patrol the off-campus areas where students frequent.

“In both of my cases it wasn’t much of a big deal because no one was really hurt, but if somebody tried to resist them, it’d be a lot more reassuring to know that there’d be more CPD around to help out,” he said.

However, some think that if CPD stop responding to certain crimes, then those crimes will increase – a theory that Olson said is not true.

“I don’t think the offender is going to calculate that there’s a lower probability of being caught,” Olson said. “The police aren’t saying they’re not going to do anything about it, they’re just going to change how they respond to it.”

Results of CPD’s new policy, and similar policies in other cities, have not yet been made available to the public.

 

by Emily Study

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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.