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McCarthy Visits Garfield Ridge

Zalewski Also Praises Watch Groups During Meeting at Normandy Park

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy was a guest speaker, along with Ald. Mike Zalewski (23rd), at the Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch meeting held outside on Monday at Normandy Park, 6660 W. 52nd St.

McCarthy spoke mainly about the Chicago Police Department’s efforts to reduce violent crime in Chicago, and praised the work of Chicago Lawn (8th) District Cmdr. David McNaughton, and his predecessor, the late John Kupczyk. He pointed to statistics showing that murders and shootings are down considerably over last year. {{more}}

After Kupczyk died, ÒI couldn’t have picked a better guy than (McNaughton) to replace him,” said McCarthy.

Despite the headlines highlighting the number of murders each weekend, McCarthy pointed out that there have been 78 less murders this year, compared with this time last year, and 370 less shootings.

ÒWe are pleased (with the improvement) but there is still a lot of work to do. There is good news, but we have an unacceptable level of violence in this city, but it has been that way for 100 years, and we won’t fix it overnight.”

He said there is a major gang problem in Chicago, and said the lower murder rate is due in part to the work by police, who have compiled a detailed audit of gangs, their various factions, and which groups are fighting each other. He said that following a gang shooting, police are now able to determine where retribution might take place, and prevent it by targeting certain areas.

When asked what he thought of the new concealed carry law in Illinois, McCarthy, the son of a New York police officer who became one himself 32 years ago, said he grew up around guns but has Òsome concerns” about the new law. ÒI have a big problem with the way it is going in now,” he said, citing specifically the 16 hours of firearm safety training required before receiving a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

The superintendent believes that is not enough training to gain proficiency with a firearm. He compared it to the police, who receive six months of police academy training, three months of field training, and annual qualifications.

ÒI have a big problem with the way it is going on now,” McCarthy said.

ÒMy father was a police officer in New York. I grew up around guns. I was used to guns. And for 32 years, I have been carrying a gun,” added the superintendent, noting that it was almost exactly 32 years ago that he joined the NYPD.

ÒThe solution to gun violence is not more guns,” continued McCarthy.

ÒHow many people do you hear about who get killed with their own guns,” he said, pointing out that the first casualty of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., last winter was the shooter’s mother, who legally owned the weapons used.

McCarthy also urged Neighborhood Watch members to contact their state representatives and senators and ask them to institute a three-year minimum sentencing for people caught with illegal weapons, and truth in sentencing, so convicts would have to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.

Right now, McCarthy said many people caught carrying illegal guns are only sentenced to probation. ÒThat crime is judged the same as being caught with untaxed cigarettes,” he said.

ÒCarrying an illegal gun is the gateway to killing someone with it,” added McCarthy, who praised Ald. Zalewski’s son, state Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-23rd) for introducing a bill last year in Springfield that would toughen sentencing requirements.

He said Chicago police recover nine times more illegal guns every year than officers in New York City, which has triple the population. ÒIt is just that there are way more guns here, and there is no requirement to report lost or stolen guns,” which he said is another problem that must be fixed.

ÒWe can do a lot as police officersÉ but we’re not going to fix (the gun violence problem) until these things are changed in the law,” he said.

Zalewski spoke after McCarthy, and credited the superintendent and the local beat teams for keeping crime down in Garfield Ridge and surrounding neighborhoods.

ÒI did tell him that when they show those maps of shootings and killings, there is always a big blank spot on our area. But we can’t forget about our neighborhood either. Having so many police and firefighters living here automatically gives us a sense of security, but we have to make sure it stays that way,” said the alderman.

He said that the relatively low crime levels have allowed him to turn his attention to attracting more businesses to the ward, particularly along Archer Avenue.

He said Òreinvigorating the business community” is of prime importance, and told the group about a meeting he held this spring with local business owners, residents and real estate professionals to do just that.

He said the group discussed ways to market the neighborhood better, and attract upscale restaurants and coffee shops. Although he noted that the existing family-style restaurants are important also. He said the neighborhood will be marketed to real estate developers at an upcoming event at Navy Pier.

In other business, he noted that Kennedy High School will be an International Baccalaureate school beginning this fall, which will attract gifted students from around the city as well as local residents. Also, he said that $400,000 worth of new playground equipment and other improvements are going into Stars and Stripes Park, 5100 S. Nordica Ave., and his office is covering the cost of replacing wood chips with new, soft surfaces that are going in on playgrounds at Byrne School and St. Rene.

Zalewski also said that he is lobbying for a new addition at Byrne School, 5329 S. Oak Park Ave. ÒEvery other school has one, and whatever happens with the new gambling bill, I have said that the only way I will support it is if we get our new addition.”

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