Saturday, May 22, 2010

The violent world of police beat 624

A hub of crime in Chicago police beat 624 is located at the intersection of 79th & Cottage Grove:
The most violent part of Chicago? It's a section of Chatham, the largely middle-class, African-American neighborhood on Chicago's South Side that has long been a bastion of black lawyers, cops, plumbers and other professionals, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis has found.
An unwanted spotlight was cast on Chatham last week, when Thomas Wortham IV, an off-duty Chicago cop, was shot to death by robbers trying to steal his new motorcycle as he left his parents' home.

But the current epicenter of violence in Chicago sits five blocks north of there -- what the Chicago Police Department calls Beat 624.

The department divides the city into beats, 279 in all. And Beat 624 ranks No. 1 among them in violent crime for the first three months of 2010, according to the Sun-Times analysis, which takes into account the total number of major violent crimes reported -- all of the murders, sexual assaults, robberies, aggravated batteries and aggravated assaults in every police beat.

Beat 632, where Wortham was killed, ranked 17th.
Perhaps even more surprising, the analysis shows that three of Chicago's traditionally highest-crime police districts -- Englewood on the South Side and Austin and Harrison on the West Side -- didn't have any beats in the top 25. 
Beat 624 is bordered by 75th on the north, 80th on the south, King Drive on the west and Metra's railroad tracks on the east. But police say the violence is concentrated in a 24-block chunk of the beat, mainly along a spine of crime -- 79th Street, one of the South Side's main east-west routes.

Twenty-eight of the beat's 66 violent crimes were robberies. Two were murders, two were sexual assaults, and the rest included shootings, beatings and stabbings.

Police Cmdr. Eddie Johnson did his own analysis of the department's Gresham District when he took over there in 2008 and determined that 624 was "our worst beat."

"Our public violence -- robberies and shootings -- was extremely high, so I created a violence-suppression team, with a sergeant and eight officers," Johnson said.

He also formed a bicycle team whose officers are focusing on Beat 624, and he has assigned two foot-patrol officers to 79th and Cottage Grove, at the hub of crime.

Officers "have driven robberies down about 60 percent on that beat," Johnson said. "[Crime] is still higher than you want it to be. But, as bad as it is, we are seeing success."

Police sources said the department plans to deploy citywide crime-fighting units this summer to problem areas in Beat 624. Other citywide gang and narcotics units regularly operate in the Gresham District, the sources said.

Still, community leaders, retired cops, shopkeepers and others who live and work there said they believe the Police Department is understaffed in the Gresham District, emboldening the crooks in Beat 624.
I think this article is worth a full read.

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