Saturday, November 22, 2008

Chicago Police Hold Summit with their Organized Crime Division

There are at least 80 gangs dealing drugs on the city's streets, protecting their business and territory with guns.

On Saturday, Chicago Police gang and tactical officers from across the city will meet to learn about the best ways to anticipate what these criminal organizations -- with an estimated 75,000 members -- are doing and how to dismantle their operations.

The summit follows Police Supt. Jody Weis' creation of a position for a new gang commander to lead department efforts to fine-tune intelligence-gathering. Officials said the summit, the first under Weis, will focus on practical matters such as getting search warrants, building cases against gangs that will stick in court and using confidential informants.

The conference was planned by the Organized Crime Division to share what officers working in the specialized gang investigations section know about tracking gang members.

"My gang investigators are different than the patrol officers working gangs on the street," said Cmdr. Leo Schmitz, who organized the conference. "People will walk out of this and say, 'I didn't know we could do that.' "

They'll also learn about state and federal resources and other tools to "look for the bad guy in different ways," Schmitz said.

Cook County judges and prosecutors will be on hand to advise the officers, who also will have time to talk to each other about trends in their districts.

Deputy Supt. Steve Peterson, who heads up Investigative Services, said the department also is examining how intelligence about gang crime is shared to find more efficient ways to get the information to the right people. Officials also hope the information gathered in the field will be more specific and will be shared more quickly.

"We're using it to anticipate where the problems may lie and eradicate problems before they happen,'' Peterson said. "The only way to do that is to get intelligence, as the foundation, and police it as a result."

Chicago Police began gathering real-time information on crime under Supt. Phil Cline, who opened the Deployment Operations Center to decide where to assign cops.

Peterson said the process is evolving to be more field-driven and decentralized.

Thanks to Annie Sweeney

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