Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to close three police stations in response to the city's budget crisis has been met with skepticism and concern from residents of neighborhoods impacted by the cuts.
Emanuel's new budget proposes closing three police stations -- in the Prairie District, on Wood on the West Side and Belmont on the Northwest Side -- in addition to reducing the number of the city's police and fire 911 dispatchers. The police station closures, which would consolidate the closing stations with existing ones, would go into effect next spring.
At a crowded community meeting at the Church of St. Paul and the Redeemer in Chicago's Kenwood neighborhood, near the Prairie station, on Monday, McCarthy attempted to rally support for the proposed station cuts by arguing that "it's not the building that matters. Instead of taking something away, we're getting more cops on the street," according to the Chicago Tribune.
"I'm hoping your department is taking into consideration the peculiarities of each district," Anita Newsome, a North Kenwood resident said concerning the plan to fold the Prairie station into the Wentworth station, just over three miles south, the Tribune reports. "We are home to the president of the United States. I want you to be aware that we are combining districts that have different cultures."
Another resident, a young mother, told Fox Chicago that she is concerned the proposed closure of the Prairie station, the city's second oldest police station, would impact public safety.
"I feel very secure walking to the bus stop with my son [near the station]," the woman said. "It helps because the police are always on duty so we never feel scared."
In response to the Wood station's proposed closure, residents in that district created a Change.org petition urging that it remain open. The petition has been signed more than 1,400 times in the two weeks since it was created.
But McCarthy maintains that police patrols in the area will actually increase after the closures, a point he also raised when the closures were originally rumored last month. The cuts are part of the $190 million the mayor has tasked McCarthy with cutting from his department's $1.3 billion annual budget.
More community meetings are expected in the coming weeks about the police station closures.
Several aldermen, as well as unions representing 911 emergency dispatchers, have criticized Emanuel's call to reduce the dispatch center's staffing and fear an increase in emergency response times. Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) told the Chicago Sun-Times the center is "one of the many places not to cut," while the mayor's office has called concerns over response times "completely speculative and incorrect."
The city council has yet to vote on the mayor's budget.
WATCH a report on the proposed police station closures: