Chicago police say low-level arrests stop bigger crimes from hap - FOX 32 News Chicago

Chicago police say low-level arrests stop bigger crimes from happening

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Murders make the headlines in Chicago, and the city has seen a sharp rise in the number of killings this year. But while it's easy to measure the problem, it's much more difficult to measure the successes that prevent many more shootings.

Tuesday night, FOX Chicago News rode along with the tactical team from the 4th District on Chicago's southeast side as officers hit the streets. At 79th and East Essex, officers came upon a group of young people hanging at an intersection known for drug dealing. The crowd scattered, ignoring calls to stop. Police suspected the teens took off because they were carrying drugs.

It's an intersection with a violent history.

"We had a female shot on this corner, innocent bystander, shot by some guys that was coming out of the store here they was after a young man and the guy drove up and shot them," said Sgt. Senora Ben, a 12 year veteran who heads up the third watch tactical team.

As we headed down the street on another call, she flipped on her sirens and sped through a stop sign. The calls that Sgt. Ben's team usually responds to involve guns, gangs and drugs, the major contributors, police say, to violent crime in the city.

But a lot of the police effort to curb that activity goes unnoticed.

"I guess the public thinks we're not doing anything. We're doing it, there is just so much that is going on at one time we don't even have enough arms to try to go at it in all the different directions," Ben said.

Translation: they are on the go all shift, one call after another. Grabbing a bite to eat is not always an option. When it is, it's usually scarfed down on the way to the next report of shots fired or a gang disturbance.

So far this year the 4th district has had 10 murders, down one from this time last year, and 53 shootings, 12 fewer than 2011. It's not the most violent part of the city, but when the temperatures get hot, so do the tempers.

"Just a couple of days ago we had five shootings in less than an hour," Ben recalls, matter-of-factly.

On this night the streets were relatively quiet. But the teens police shagged earlier from 79th and Essex decided to trespass into someone's fenced-in yard to hide from officers and smoke pot. All six, most juveniles, got arrested.

It's low level arrests like those that Sgt. Ben said go a long way to preventing greater violence.

"We are out here to make sure you have a safe day, a safe night," she said, adding that while she hears a lot of complaints, usually from people breaking the law, the "thank you's" are few and far between. That, she said, is her biggest frustration.

"When we don't get the credit where credit is due, I think it's a slap in our face."

A sentiment no doubt shared by many officers who's behind the scenes work usually goes on without fanfare, but makes a difference in stemming violence, even though it's often hard to quantify.

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