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City may close some police stations to save money

Monday, September 19, 2011

Some Chicago police stations could close their doors as part of a department cost-cutting plan.

The superintendent also said the move would make more officers available for patroling the streets. On Monday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel would not answer the direct question: Is his administration considering closing any of Chicago's 25 district police stations?

"You will know my budget when you see it when I'm responsible for presenting it," he said.

The city council police and fire committee chairman said the idea should be considered as long as public safety is maintained.

"We protect the people," Ald. James Balcer said. "As long as the people are protected, that is my number one concern. If we can reduce crime, we look at it."

Balcer's predecessor on the committee, Ald. Anthony Beale, said the budget-challenged city could transfer administrators in each district to the street and save a huge chunk of Chicago's $635 million deficit.

A ldermen say its an open secret at city hall that as many as five of the city's 25 police stations could be closed to help the mayor resolve Chicago's budget deficit.

"If you really look hard there's a few hundred million you can save the taxpayers without affecting public safety one bit," Beale said.

The city's 25 district police stations include a few buildings that are more than a half of a century old. Neighbors resisted fiercely the last time the city tried closing the 13th district headquarters in the Ukrainian Village.

"The reason there's not so much crime in this neighborhood is because of that right there," Herb Brooks said, pointing to the district station. "If it goes away crime will come right back."

Some aldermen counter that closing buildings would mean more cops on the street serving and protecting people

"They care about the cop on the beat," said Ald. George Cardenas. "They want to see that person. Its not the building."

During his 22 years in office, former mayor Richard M. Daley continued a program to rebuild police stations and even some of those new buildings are under-utilized as the department remains some 2,500 officers below its authorized strength.

Fraternal Order of Police resident Michael Shields said whatever the mayor and city council are considering, his union should be in the loop.

"If they're talking about closing two districts, that's going to impact 500 to 600 employees," Shields said. "That will change their lives, yet they're not telling those employees what they're going to do and that's wrong."

"It's not a budgetary question, it's a crime-fighting strategy," Emanuel said.

The mayor's budget plan, which could include details on which police stations might close, will be released next month.

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