CHICAGO — Chicago’s top cop reiterated his confidence in technology as the “No. 1” way to address rising robberies and help officers “do the better job” across the city in an interview with Block Club Tuesday.
Mayor Brandon Johnson selected Englewood native Larry Snelling from a packed field of candidates narrowed down to three by the civilian-led Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability. Johnson said he was “fully confident” in the 30-year veteran’s ability to conduct citywide change while maintaining officer trust.
Nearly a month into his new role, Snelling is “working diligently” to address key city issues, including the recent uptick in robberies across the city, he told Block Club Tuesday. Local journalists were invited to the department’s public safety headquarters,
3510 S. Michigan Ave., for 20-minute interviews with the city’s new superintendent.
As robberies in neighborhoods like West Town and Logan Square continue to skyrocket, leaving neighbors on edge, Snelling said “technology is number one” in combatting and deterring the crime spree.
Chicago Police are combatting robberies citywide, not just “those areas where people are complaining the most,” Snelling said.
“Officers have a focus” on using technology like license plate readers to identify drivers and stolen cars, which are often then used to commit more crimes, Snelling said.
The department is also using “technology across borders” to identify people who travel between city police districts to commit robberies — a “pattern” leaders have noticed, Snelling said.
Such “border mission” efforts, where Chicago police officers and district intelligence officers communicate with each other when pursuing suspects, are also extending to suburban departments in nearby towns like Cicero, Snelling said.
Snelling has previously declined to address the city’s contract with Shotspotter, the controversial gunshot detection technology that has long faced pushback as neighbors and local leaders question its efficacy. Johnson promised to end the city’s contract with the company while campaigning for mayor but has stopped short of doing so.
Claims that ShotSpotter is a “tool of surveillance” aren’t accurate, Snelling told Block Club. The technology can detect gunfire, which in turn gives an officer a chance to get to the location, possibly before a 911 call is out, Snelling said.
“What I’ve said to that and what I will continue to say is that any technology that is going to help officers do the job better, get to jobs quicker, help our citizens save lives, I’m all for any technology that’s going to help us do that,” Snelling said.
Criticism over the department’s pursuit policy, or when and how officers can chase a crime suspect in a vehicle, is also on the rise. Amid a rise in costly lawsuits following crashes after high-speed pursuits, the city has strengthened the policy in recent years.
Officers “have to weigh the risk to the public” before a pursuit, but that’s another way technology, including helicopters, can “come into place,” Snelling said.
“We see where these individuals go, and now we can deploy dispatch officers to that location to apprehend these individuals, which would save us a lot in civil litigation if we know that this person crashes into something or that pursuit leads to an accident that hurts a civilian or pedestrian,” Snelling said. “We do want to be careful with that, but at the same time, we want to do everything that we can to apprehend these armed robbers.”
Snelling started his role in the force as a patrol officer in the Englewood (7th) District in 1992 before rising through the ranks to become a sergeant at the police academy and an expert on the department’s use-of-force policies at police trials.
He has served as the chief of the Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism since 2022.
After more than three decades on the force, Snelling said he hopes to repair the relationship between officers and the community where they see one another “as their family.”
A united city is the only way to resolve pressing issues, Snelling said.
“If we don’t work together as a team … it’s going to be hard to get the city back on track,” Snelling said. “We cannot be siloed. We have to start trusting each other. We have to start building these relationships and working together.”
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