Tipping Point: FOX 32 takes a look at Chicago`s police strategy - Fox 2 News Headlines

Tipping Point: FOX 32 takes a first-hand look at Chicago`s police strategy

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

In a secure conference room at Police Headquarters, Chicago's top cops and their highest-paid civilian advisers assess what's working and what's not in their long struggle to reduce the toll of bloody murder here.

Screens display block-by-block crime trends that powerful computers have spotted, sometimes singling out suspects who may be planning a revenge killing. But that won't be stopped here.

The way patrol officers Leroy Tolliver and Terry Howard interact with those on their West Side beat embodies what the top brass mean by the phrase "procedural justice." In contrast to the criminal misconduct of notorious ex-Det. John Burge and others, a new generation of cops is told to explain what they're doing and why. The aim: build trust and gather valuable intelligence on murderous gang bangers who've made this Garfield Park neighborhood so deadly.

"You get your information like that," says officer Howard. "They'll pull you off to the side, ‘Hey, Terry, I got some info for you.' And nine out of ten, it's good."

Garfield Park is among a small group of communities on the West Side and South Side where a majority of Chicago's shootings and murders take place. African-Americans account for about 80 percent of victims and offenders, most young men linked to street gangs. Gun violence kills more young black men in Chicago than the next nine leading causes of death combined. At the heart of the carnage: hundreds of mini-gangs, the feuding remnants of criminal empires weakened by law enforcement.

"The gang members who are involved in the shootings on the street are not making millions of dollars off the narcotics trade," McCarthy explains. "They might deal some weed to make some money. But, you know, they're gonna be low level thugs. There's not a Mr. Big in this thing."

Few things anger Superintendent Garry McCarthy more than what he considers the two big lies about Chicago: that it's America's murder capitol -- last year we ranked 16th -- and then there's the National Rifle Association's claim that Chicago's long had the country's toughest gun laws. In fact, first-time gun offenders here are rarely punished, unlike New York, where jail time is mandatory.

A former New York street cop himself, McCarthy claims it deters even crooks from carrying guns.

"The simple fact is there's way too many guns and there's too little punishment," says McCarthy. "That is the single most important difference between Chicago and New York."

Chicago has made great progress. Homicide here has fallen by more than 50% since the early 1990s. It dropped 71% in the Rogers Park 24th Police District, where hundreds of activists such as B.J. Thomas waged a day-and-night, block-by-block campaign against drug dealing street gangs. The result: neighborhoods in and around Downtown and on the North Side--with upwards of a million residents--are among the safest in any big city in the world.

But there's been little or no progress in neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of poverty and shattered families. Police are not alone as they seek solutions.

Repeat curfew violators are tracked by computer. In a pilot program in four police districts, their families are being invited to meetings that do not involve punishment. They get offers of counseling at Hartgrove Hospital, personal support from volunteers at local churches and, if they want it, substance abuse treatment.

President Obama got personally involved in one of the most promising anti-violence programs of all, "Becoming a Man." He met teen participants at Hyde Park Academy last winter and then brought them and their families to the White House for a Father's Day luncheon. The participants had all recently missed at least six weeks of school; 20% had been arrested; some had gang affiliations. Despite all that, a rigorous study by the University of Chicago Crime Lab found a phenomenal payoff from BAM's mentoring, tutoring and sports. The $1,100 investment in each troubled teen generated at least $3,600 in benefits, perhaps as much as $34,000.

It's prompted police to start contacting those on the so-called "heat list:" 450 troublemakers identified by the department's computers as the most likely Chicagoans to kill or be killed. 24 "heat listers" who reside in the West Side Austin Police District have gotten personal visits from the commander, accompanied by Chris Mallette. He explains there are alternatives to that thug life, including job training, substance abuse treatment and other help. While only one "heat lister" has accepted, so far, Mallette said he brought seven other young men with him.

"Some of them are in transitional jobs. Some of them are in different types of support programs, be it substance abuse, housing. You know, whatever the needs are," Mallette says. "I think where we get it wrong is when we think there's a simple answer to this. There isn't."

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