As part of the new strategy, community safety officers will be distributed to units throughout the department to combat gang crime amidst Chicago’s deadliest year since the 1990s.
Chicago police Superintendent David Brown announced recently that the Chicago Police Department will redistribute its community safety officers to specific units throughout the department in an effort to combat gang violence and crime.
The community safety team – originally a citywide unit charged with engaging communities in neighborhoods experiencing a high rate of violence and gaining their trust – will be redeployed to units across the department to deal with the city’s gang problem.
The community safety officers will be distributed to the department’s homicide unit, carjacking taskforce, gang investigations, narcotics division and others, according to Brown.
“This is part of our strategy to continue our focus on gangs, guns and drugs with an emphasis on people, places and behaviors that drive both violence and public disorder in our neighborhoods,” Brown said at a news conference at the police headquarters.
“I just want to make sure we got the top line right: We’re going after gangs. We’re going after gangs, and we’re going to do it constitutionally. We’re going to make sure we don’t violate anyone’s rights, but gangs are out of control in this city and we’re going after them to hold them accountable,” Brown continued.
Brown said the new strategy is intended to bring a “community service component” to other areas of the department fighting gangs. Ultimately, the goal remains the same: to gain the trust of people in communities.
“It is an expansion of the work the community safety team originally did to include a community safety team — community involvement integration — with the gang investigations, which is a new feature that we didn’t have before,” Brown explained.
“It was my concern with the saturation team, the gang enforcement team, the gun team, we had no community service component at all, and I thought that was short sighted. I believe every member of this police department needs to be involved in some type of community engagement for us to really gain the trust of people in communities.”
Brown did not elaborate on how many community safety officers will go to each unit. Police spokesman Don Terry also declined to give a breakdown on the distribution, reasoning that the department did not want to give too much away to potential criminals.
However, Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said 40 community safety officers will join the carjacking teams to help detectives.
According to a Chicago Tribune report, the community safety team was formed last summer in response to violence and civil unrest following the death of George Floyd.
The team, which has a total of 800 officers, was tasked with reducing violence in the city’s most violent neighborhoods.
However, despite their presence and involvement in those communities throughout the year, violence continued to escalate. Police statistics recorded 540 homicides, 14 more than the same period in 2020, yielding the highest homicide rates recorded in the city since the 1990s.
Brown’s announcement comes nearly a month after the shooting of two community safety officers in the South Side West Englewood neighborhood, which resulted in the death of Officer Ella French and left her partner, Carlos Yanez, badly wounded.
Brown’s redistribution builds on last year’s move to strengthen the department’s narcotics division, when he reassigned officers from patrols duties to narcotics investigations.