Chicago cops to potential shooters: We're watching you - KMSP-TV

Chicago cops to potential shooters: We're watching you

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Chicago Police are set to kick off an experiment Friday in a neighborhood on the city's West Side, hoping to alert would-be criminals that they're being watched and face stiff penalties if they're convicted of crimes.

In the next few months, hundreds of gang members who police say are the "worst of the worst" will be getting letters from their local police commander, warning them of the consequences if they commit a crime.

The "custom notifications" come after police identified more than 400 "hot people" across the city who are most likely to be involved in often fatal shootings that have drawn national attention to gang violence.

"We're saying, `We know who you are, we know what you do and your chance of dying in a homicide is much greater than John Q. Citizen,"' said Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

"At this point, we're putting them on notice, that if you commit these crimes, we will follow you and we'll prosecute you to the fullest," Chicago Police Commander Barb West explains.

The effort is limited to a single district in the Austin neighborhood, though police hope to expand the practice as gang violence escalates. They're also considering tapping into so-called "influentials" -- people such as coaches and pastors who may be able to accompany police on future visits.

They're also considering whether to use the tactic in special situations, such as when they think someone may be involved in a retaliatory shooting.

"We are looking to reach out and touch those individuals who are responsible for the violence in the city," said Debra Kirby, who heads the department's Bureau of Organizational Development.

Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy says the recipients are also offered social services and there's no illegal profiling involved.

"There are no legal challenges in our having this conversation with anybody based upon their criminal record," McCarthy says.

Defense Attorney Joe Lopez, though, suggests this plan goes too far.

"I mean they're presupposing that these people are either going to be killed, or they're going to go shoot somebody," Lopez says. "And this is the United States, we're not supposed to target individuals based on factors such as that."

Despite violent weekends -- 11 people were shot and killed and dozens more wounded during the Fourth of July holiday weekend -- police say overall violence in the city is down.

As of Thursday, police said murders were down 26 percent this year while overall crime had fallen 15 percent compared to the same period last year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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