CPD Supt. Snelling Talks City Safety Plans at the Economic Club of Chicago

Special to The Chicago Defender

On Wednesday, Jan. 31, Chicago Police Superintendent Larry Snelling spoke with Chicago Sun-Times reporter Tom Schuba at the Economic Club of Chicago. 

With a packed summer of programming ahead, the conversation focused on a long-term strategy for a safer city not just in the summer but year-round.

Before their one-on-one, Snelling gave an overview of the 2023/2024 crime statistics and the police department’s efforts to combat those numbers.

Major points included:

  • 2023 ended with a reduction of homicides by 92% and 379 fewer shooting victims.
  • Increased communication with families impacted by gun violence from the CPD Detective Division, resulting in the creation of a new family liaison official who updates families on the status of their cases.
  • As of Jan. 2024, homicides were down 40% and down 15% this month compared to the same time last year.
  • Shootings were reduced by 38% and shooting victims by 40%.
  • Carjackings are down 50%, and robberies are down 38%.

To address these robberies, Snelling shared that a new CPD tactic has been implemented to increase communication between bureaus. This comes in addition to monthly meetings with State Attorney Kim Foxx to discuss cases and charges.

More than 187 arrests have been made for organized retail crimes, and $3.8 million has been recovered. Most of those funds have been returned to Chicago businesses, a model they intend to continue this year.

The Plan This Summer: Maximum Preparation

He addressed the CPD’s plan for the DNC Convention as well as other major summer events, stating that the department began training as soon as they got word of the convention’s arrival. 

Despite only having a year to prepare, Snelling says the department intends to study past scenarios to ensure maximum preparation. He also expressed a need for funding for a new initiative their Civic Committee is putting together. They’ll help provide better wellness options for officers, whose workloads often increase during summer. He also said this resource would allow them to allocate more time to get the officers more involved with helping the youth. 

“If we don’t get them when they’re children, everything else will get them,” Snelling said, “We want to do our part. We can’t arrest our way out of this situation.”

Boosting Officer Morale

During his Q&A with Schuba, the first question was focused on issues that cropped up under former CPD Superintendent David Brown and Snelling’s plans to implement changes.

For Snelling, a big part of that change is increasing officer morale, which he felt had declined. He said that officers weren’t feeling supported, with canceled off days and negative backlash from the media and social media.

“It can be a lot to handle with no time off to decompress,” he said. 

“We talk about those who have been engaged in crime, the re-entry programs, second chances, the mistakes individuals have made. Well, it’s the same thing with our officers. Those are human beings, and at times, they make mistakes.”

“However, I do understand that we have a responsibility, and with that responsibility comes accountability, and we have to hold our officers accountable with the decisions that they make,” Snelling added. 

“However, we do have to set them up to win.”

Transparency, Guns, Gangs and Carjackings

When asked about Mayor Brandon Johnson’s decision to remove CPD officers from CPS schools, Snelling found no major issue with the decision.

“We’re not offended because we were voted out. We’re just going to continue to do the work to make sure these kids are safe,” Snelling said.

As for the battle of arbitration versus police reports, Snelling emphasized the importance of transparency.

“The entire story always needs to be told,” he said. It informs the public, puts the truth out there, and determines if force was justified. Nothing should be behind closed doors because we shouldn’t have anything to hide.”

When asked what could be contributing to gun violence, Snelling said the issue is rooted in the city’s gang factions.

“Our gang issue is more complicated than anywhere else in the country,” he said.

“We lack the structure that other cities have. We have numerous gang factions there are 65 gang factions in Englewood alone. Our approach to decreasing this is forming teams around specific issues, including carjackings, retail theft and working with federal and local partners.”

As for getting better control over carjackings, the CPD has been in conversation with Kia and Hyundai manufacturers to bolster their security. They’ve also increased communication between districts and have begun to utilize more air support with helicopters. That support also comes in handy during pursuits that have the potential to get dangerous.

When asked why arrests are so difficult to make with such detailed dossiers of robbery crews available, Snelling said it comes down to the evidence. 

“There’s not enough evidence to charge them,” Snelling says, “So we use that evidence to build a strategy around potential threats.”

Supt. Snelling’s Goals

As for Snelling’s goals for his first year in the position, he’s aiming for the lowest crime stats possible.

“I don’t like putting numbers on these things because it’s dismissive to those that have lost their lives,” he said. 

“Our officers are working to ensure the city is safe, not just one part of the city or one neighborhood.”

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