Two of the Chicago Police Department's district stations closed Sunday, while one more will close by the fall.
The Prairie and Belmont station closings, on the Near South and North Sides, are part of Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy's aim to make the department "the most effective crime fighting machine that we can have," ABC Chicago reports. The Wood station is slated to close later this year, reducing the number of the department's district stations from 25 to 22 through consolidating the old stations into existing ones.
The planned closings have been met with skepticism and concern since they were announced last fall. 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 was signed by more than 1,800 people.
Anne Shaw, a resident who fought to protect the Wood station, still fears that its closure will impact response time and public safety in the area.
"When it comes to public safety issues, that's one thing that shouldn't be cut, they shouldn't be closing the stations, the station itself, having a station there itself acts as a deterrent," Shaw told ABC.
But McCarthy maintains that "it's not the buildings that protect the public. It's the officers," the Chicago Tribune reports. He also argued that, though the plan is expected to save the city nearly $12 million each year -- a respectable chunk of the $190 million McCarthy was tasked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to cut from the department's $1.3 billion annual budget -- budget savings were not his principal concern with the consolidations.
The plan, McCarthy said, will allow more police officers to work on the street, becoming more acquainted with each beat's residents and challenges, CBS Chicago reports.
McCarthy previously described the decision of which stations to close as a "dynamic and complex" one based on the demographics and crime rates in the district, as well as the age of each building.
At the same time the department is closing district stations, the city's overall crime rate was down 20 percent in January, while its homicide rate was on the rise.