CHICAGO — Nearly 100 new police officers are hitting the streets across Chicago Sunday, joining what Mayor Rahm Emanuel describes as the "backbone" of a multifaceted approach to crime.
The 87 new officers joining districts across the city are the latest of more than 850 cops added to Chicago's police force so far this year. Chicago will add about 250 more officers over the next three months.
"The beat officer is the backbone of the police department – and we’re adding about 1,000 new officers over a two year cycle. Adding to the overall head count," Mayor Emanuel said Sunday.
As he touts the addition of new police officers, Mayor Emanuel argues that a successful violence reduction strategy also involves boosting participation in summer jobs and in after-school programs.
"That head count is as important as how many officers we have. Because without an after school or mentoring program, you cannot police your way out of this activity," Emanuel said.
The addition of 87 new officers comes after a week in which top mayoral contenders voiced concerns over violent crime and the police department. Superintendent Eddie Johnson says officers stepped up gun enforcement over the weekend, making 88 arrests for illegal guns and seizing 88 guns this week.
"We’ll just keep chippin’ at this rock until we get it done," Johnson said.
As Johnson battles a city awash in guns, he also says any crime reduction strategy has to focus on economics and education, too.
"At the end of the day, we have to invest in our youth and give them other things to do, so I won’t have to deal with them later on down the line," Johnson said.
In his final months as mayor, Emanuel says he’ll use a simple test to see if the strategy of more jobs, programs and police is working.
"Our test is where kids know the sound of laughter, not the sound of gunfire," Emanuel said.