The Chicago Police Department has reopened two neighborhood headquarters for detectives and supervisors in an effort to get investigators closer to communities they cover.
That, in turn, could make it easier to prevent violence and solve crimes, officials said a Thursday announcement.
“My goal … is to make sure Chicago is the safest big city in America,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
The reorganization of detectives essentially returns the Police Department to the structure it had before then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel shrunk it seven years ago.
The city at the time had five neighborhood headquarters referred to as “Areas.” Detectives and supervisors policing one-fifth of the city were stationed at each one, as well as police officers who served the immediate neighborhood.
That structure was slashed to three Areas — referred to as Areas North, South and Central — under Emanuel.
But Lightfoot revamped the former map, adding back Areas at 5101 S. Wentworth Ave. and 3151 W. Harrison Ave. All five of the old Areas return to their former names: Areas 1-5.
The three Police Areas were “too big” and weren’t “functionally working … as effectively as [they] could be,” Lightfoot said.
The restructuring had been in the works for months. The city rehabbed the two re-opened Area buildings that were closed and redrew their boundaries as part of the project.
With the changes, parts of the city hit hard by crime now no longer have to share resources and officers with as many other neighborhoods.
For example, the newly created Area 4 will focus solely on crime in the 10th, 11th and 15th police districts, which are in parts of the West Side that struggle with gun violence.
Now, detectives working out of the Police Areas will be closer to the neighborhoods where they work, which means it will be easier for them to work with witnesses and victims and they’ll be able to get to crime scenes quicker, Lightfoot said. She said it also means detectives will be able to collaborate more often with officers.
Officials also hope redrawing the boundaries of the areas means each will have a more balanced case volume, which can help detectives lessen their caseload so they can focus on and solve crimes.
Already, the more than 900 detectives who had been working in the three Police Areas have been redistributed to cover all five areas.
And there’s now a dedicated lieutenant and sergeants in each area to focus solely on homicide investigations, said Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan.
“Bringing these areas back online makes it more convenient for witnesses and victims to access detectives as well as attorneys and others in the investigatory process,” Deenihan said. “All these changes are made with the goal of solving more crimes, responding quickly to calls for service and making every neighborhood safer.”
Supt. David Brown wasn’t in charge of the department when the changes started taking shape, but he said he has confidence in them.
“Today, we are here not just to cut a ribbon but to make good on a commitment to this community and beyond,” Brown said. “The addition of Area 4 and Area 5 puts police officers closer to everyday Chicagoans. It makes it easier for witnesses and victims to interact with detectives and put specialized police teams nearby and ready to respond.”