“Deadly Moves” – an update

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The city, its police department and the Chicago Housing Authority recently proposed to increase police patrols at several public housing sites and in areas where residents have been relocated.

This announcement came after publication of “Deadly Moves,” a series of articles produced this September by Residents’ Journal and the Chicago Reporter investigative magazine on the increased murder rate in and around CHA communities since October 1999. “Deadly Moves” reported that the murder rate in CHA developments nearly doubled since the start of the Plan for Transformation, CHA’s $1.6 billion redevelopment effort.

The series exposed continuing questions about the nature of police protection for residents of public housing, the vast majority of whom are women rearing young children.

Now police officers will be assigned to “hot spots” at eight CHA sites and in other areas for the public housing residents’ sake, according to CPD Deputy Superintendent Dana Starks.

“We are looking at the concerns of the residents and the [Local Advisory Council] presidents so we can attempt to address their needs,” he said during a November phone interview on the matter.

Uncensored Facts
Immediately after “Deadly Moves” hit the streets, the CHA and the CPD disputed the reports, which used their own data to show a substantial increase in shooting deaths at public housing sites and in other high poverty areas. Since the Chicago Housing Authority’s Plan for Transformation began in October 1999, CHA has continuously shuttered public housing high rises, driving residents into low-income, African American neighborhoods where a high concentration of crime already existed.

Beauty and I can attest to the fact that, before and since the series of articles, public housing residents were often complaining to CHA officials during tenant meetings about the constant gang shootings and murders within their respective public housing sites.

In a mid-August public meeting, two elderly members of the Local Advisory Council for the CHA’s West Side LeClaire Courts housing complex pleaded with CHA CEO Terry Peterson and the Board of Commissioners to do something about the recent gang violence at their site.

“At least six to eight young men died due to shootings,” proclaimed Sandy Duncan, one of the two distraught seniors.

The following month at the September CHA board meeting, a resident from the Rockwell Gardens public housing complex asked Peterson and the commissioners to do something about the removal of the police officers that were assigned to their location for the tenants’ safety and protection.

“Why doesn’t Rockwell have police protection anymore? We were at a meeting and we [residents] found out through another young lady that represents the building that we will not have police in Rockwell. They’re all going to Cabrini Green and Henry Horner and I want to know why we won’t have anyone?” she said.

Gossip was floating around at the time among residents at the CHA Cabrini Green housing complex that two white men had allegedly been found dead in an unoccupied unit.

Derek Hill, the director of CHA’s public affairs office, disputed the allegations during a phone interview in November.

“I had heard rumors of two Caucasian men who had been murdered in Cabrini, and also of two police officers being murdered there. But none of those are true,” he declared.

CPD spokesperson Pat Camden said the police raid was a routine drug bust, done with the assistance of camera surveillance.

“The raids were a street corner conjunction operation. We had identified 7 to 15 targets undercover that we ended up taking into custody,” he said.

“By videotaping them, we end up with a 98 % conviction rate,” he explained.

Insecurity in CHA?
The CHA is now paying the CPD $12 million annually since they replaced the public housing police force in 2000. Under the contract between CHA and CPD, police officers are required to walk up and down and around buildings, car patrol and establish relationships with residents, among other things, as a deterrent to criminal activities.

In “Deadly Moves,” we discovered that more than 350 police officers were detailed to man all of CHA’s now 20 family developments and 53 senior buildings. But only 13 police patrol cars were assigned to 11 CHA developments, according a 2003 report from Thomas P. Sullivan, the former State’s Attorney and then-indepenedent monitor of the plan.

Shortly after the series of articles produced by RJ and the Chicago Reporter, Mayor Richard M. Daley held a press conference with top commanders from the police department and CHA officials, including CEO Terry Peterson.

The press conference announced a new police pilot program for 80 additional officers to be deployed at eight CHA sites, and 40 officers to be assigned to other areas around the city of Chicago where residents have relocated.

Throughout the press conference, which Beauty attended, the Mayor and other speakers referenced the decrease in crime in CHA developments. When Beauty and another reporter aked about the increased homicide rate to the Mayor, Peterson stepped in to answer the question. Peterson continued to dispute the idea that murders in CHA have increased.

Under the new pilot program, the police will be detailed in three family public housing developments currently under redevelopment in the Historic Bronzeville District; four public housing developments that are used as temporary relocation sites; and at one CHA City-state property.

At the South Side Stateway Gardens “hot spot” and redevelopment site, just one building out of eight high-rise buildings currently remains. It is located in the vicinity of CPD’s newly constructed Central District Headquarters. Police will also be sent to the Robert Taylor Homes redevelopment site, where two of three remaining buildings are occupied.

The five additional sites are South Side developments Raymond Hilliard Homes, Harold Ickes Homes, Dearborn Homes and Altgeld Murray and West Side development LeClaire Courts.

A Confirmation of the Facts?
Mayor Richard M. Daley said at the October press conference that the new pilot program was “based on the latest information on gang rivalries and drug activities.

“These elite units are dispatched and conduct aggressive visible patrols in parts of the cities where violence appears likely to increase,” he said.

In a later interview in November, Chicago Police Deputy Superintendent Dana Starks defined what the city meant by “hot spot” areas.

“What CPD means when we say hot spots are peaks where violent activities occur in that frame; a spike in crime that some time occurs,” he told RJ.

CHA spokesperson Derek Hill said, during a mid-December interview, that the increased police presence at the eight targeted public housing sites is much needed to better deter other crimes besides homicides in these hot spots – these crimes, he added, were being perpetrated largely by non-public housing residents.

“Eighty percent of the people who are in violent crimes on our property are not residents of CHA,” he said.

“I think if you pass by Stateway or Robert Taylor you see fixed patrols, meaning there’s usually a patrol car sitting outside of either or,” Hill added.

In response to curious residents’ speculations as to why the police have now decided to increase its presence at these sites, especially at Stateway Gardens, where only one building remains, Hill said residents should be ecstatic and not complain.

“I don’t get why people would have any problems with police beefing up their patrols to make crime go down even further. That’s a good thing. People on one hand want better patrols, but on the other hand want to second guess the police. You shouldn’t second guess the police department to create harmony in your communities,” he said.

“You keep saying that ‘the people say.’ Well, the people aren’t police officers and have no idea how to make things improve out here in the streets,” Hill declared.

In December, after the announcement of the police pilot program, two young men were shot to death within a two-week span of time, according to Hill. One was Martinus King, killed at the Dearborn Homes where the CPD were to increase their presence. Another shooting death occured in Cabrini-Green on December 4.

Even with a stepped-up police presence, shooting deaths like Martinus King’s will still occur, according to CPD spokesperson David Bayless.

“People shouldn’t assume that just with the mere presence of police officers that every homicide will be prevented,” Bayless said in a December 17 interview.

“That is not true; some homicides happen in closed corridors, as in the case of Martinus King,”

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