CHICAGO – After a month in which nearly 15 people were shot every day, Chicago Police announced a July 4 weekend show of force that will include thousands more officers on the streets, officers toting high-powered weapons at airports and teams of officers patrolling the city's most dangerous neighborhoods, tourist attractions, train stations and parks.
"I'm sick and tired and I know that the people living in those communities are tired of it (the gun violence)," said Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson on Friday. "If it takes 5,000 officers over the weekend, then it takes that."
Johnson made a similar announcement before the Memorial Day weekend that ended with shootings that left six people dead and 56 others wounded. But on Friday, Johnson said the city had added a number of crime fighting initiatives, including a new policy starting Friday that allows more officers to work overtime. And he pointed to efforts to target the 1,400 people who have been identified as most likely to be suspects or victims of gang violence — including two raids in the last several days that led to more than 100 arrests.
At the same time, in the wake of the gun and bomb attack that killed 44 people at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport this week, travelers during one of the busiest travel times of the year arrived at the O'Hare International Airport to the sight of officers in military-style gear, an unusual show of force.
According to the department's crime statistics, June ended with 72 homicides and 447 shooting victims, bringing the homicide tally in Chicago to 315 so far this year. That is more than 100 more than the total for the same period last year and puts the city on pace for more than 600 homicides in a year for the first time since 2003.
The holiday weekend last year ended with six gun deaths and shootings that left 48 people injured. This year's will be a major test for the department that has come under fire since the release of a video late last year showing a white officer fatally shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times. Johnson has openly worried about data suggesting that since then officers have not been as aggressive in fighting crime as in the past.
But on Friday, Johnson said his officers have taken more guns off the streets and made more gun arrests this year compared to 2015, indicating indicates that officers are aggressively fighting crime.
"We are making it abundantly clear that we will not tolerate violence in our neighborhoods," he said.