Sunday, November 20, 2005

Shake-up at top of Chicago Crime Commission

There has been a shake-up at the top of Chicago's oldest citizen crimefighting organization. The ABC7 I-Team has learned Chicago Crime Commission President Tom Kirkpatrick is out after more than 10 years.

The Chicago Crime Commission is the oldest crimefighting force of its type in the nation. The organization of 200 business, civic and professional leaders from metro Chicago has been at the forefront of crime prevention in the city for 85 years. It is not unusual for such a group to make a change at the top. What is astounding is that the president of the crime commission resigned back in July and we have just now learned about it.

"When I first came there 10 years ago, it had sort of stalled in the water a little bit," said Thomas Kirkpatrick, former crime commission president. Tom Kirkpatrick's tenure at the Chicago Crime Commission was the longest of any president in decades. When Kirkpatrick submitted his resignation last summer, there was a mutual parting of the ways. "I'd say he did a pretty good job. Over the last 10 years the crime commission branched out into different areas," said Douglas Kramer, crime commission board chairman.

The crime commission first made its name in the roaring 20s, establishing a citizen's frontline against the Chicago mob. For decades, the commission focused on how to rid Chicago of the outfit, criminal rackets and the public corruption it takes to keep the mob in business. Under Kirkpatrick's reign, the crime commission widened its sights.

"You can't always rest on our past glories," said Kirkpatrick. "We have to focus on crime today, which turned out to be gangs, street crime. Remember when Chicago was murder capital? Now look at us, we've reduced murders by fantastic amounts through coordinated efforts."

In the well publicized safe neighborhoods project, the crime commission and the US attorney in Chicago alerted convicted felons that if they committed another crime with a gun, they would serve time in federal prison.

"In the last four years they have put into the federal penitentiary system about 800 former or convicted felons who were caught on the street with a firearm," Kramer said. "Don't you think that has had something to do with the reduction of murders in Chicago?

Kirkpatrick says that he is most proud of the crime commission's role in establishing multi-suburb task forces to investigate major crimes. The crime commission was highly critical of how local police bungled their investigation of the Brown's Chicken massacre in 1993.

Despite new criminal threats in Chicago, Kirkpatrick says the commission should still keep one eye on the outfit. "It's certainly not dead," he said. "There is certainly more money to be made. Gambling, sports betting, still controlled by an organization. You have to have an organization to cover those bets."

The fact that almost four months passed before anybody noticed that the crime commission had no president might be taken as a sign that the commission has lost its public edge. But commission board chairman Doug Kramer says they just wanted to mount a quiet search for Kirkpatrick's replacement.

The board has hired someone and wanted to name him Tuesday night at the crime commission's annual dinner. But the new president has outside commitments until next month and won't be named until then.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie ABC7Chicago

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