Chicago starting special mobile police unit for summer

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The Chicago Police Department says it's sending out new mobile police patrol units this summer to keep parks, beaches and neighborhoods safe.

On Wednesday, it was a quiet and peaceful afternoon in Schreiber Park on Chicago's far north side. And
Chicago's police superintendent hopes it stays that way all summer long with help from summer mobile patrol units.

“So if we see things popping up that we need to address with a large force of police officers, then we'll send them in that direction,” said Supt. Eddie Johnson. 

The superintendent has announced that starting June 19th, an additional 100 officers will be patrolling parks and neighborhoods on bikes, ATV's, Segways and horses. It's similar to a program which was discontinued four years ago.

“The biggest difference is that this summer patrol unit will be able to employed anywhere in the city, and not just lakefront stuff,” Johnson said.

Experts say mobile units spend a lot of time breaking up relatively minor disturbances. But those disturbances could have escalated into shootings or killings.

“Shootings usually begin with an exchange of words and insults, and they graduate,” said Criminal Justice Loyola Professor Arthur Lurigio.

Lurigio believes increased reliance on the mobile patrol units makes good sense.

“The police are seen as more available, more approachable, as well as more engaged in the life of the community. And more protective of the safety of the community,” Lurigio said.

The superintendent says this isn’t a reaction to the two melees on North Avenue Beach last week. The focus will be on parks and neighborhoods, not beaches.

Citywide, 69 people were shot over the three day Memorial Day weekend, and six of them died.

FOX 32 asked the superintendent whether the 90 degree temperatures expected this weekend will add to the problem.

“I mean, let’s face it, if you have warmer weather, you have more people out, so that's always a concern, but we don’t' add more people just because the weather's warming up,” Johnson said.