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McCarthy says it’s the largest program of its kind in the nation and will be expanded this year.

So, too, will the department’s so-called “heat lists” of people deemed likely to kill or be killed. Officers gathered statistics showing that associates of murder victims are 100 to 500 times more likely to end up on either side of a slaying. Last summer, they hand-delivered letters to 25 people warning them of those dangers and asking what police could do to help.

Since then, some have been arrested for low-level offenses, but none has been a victim or an offender of gun violence, McCarthy said.

The efforts come at a time when some state lawmakers have made it known that they want more than tougher penalties for criminals - a message they sent when they halted a measure supported by the mayor that would have imposed stiffer sentences on ex-cons and known gang members caught with illegal guns. Critics feared it would disproportionately target young black and Latino men before they could be rehabilitated.

Emanuel pushed for revamping state law last spring but was rebuffed by members of the Black Caucus, who insisted that the city take a broader approach to law enforcement than just locking up youths. The Rev. Jesse Jackson appeared at the Illinois Capitol to support their efforts.

Jackson said the drop in violence should be applauded, but the daily count of shootings and killings is “just one dimension of the violent culture.”

“The violence of economic disparity and poverty has not moved measurably,” Jackson told The Associated Press this week.

Since then, city officials have said they will try again to pass the stiffer-sentence legislation, but they also have called more attention to programs that line up jobs and mentoring opportunities and behavioral therapy for at-risk youths.

Statistics suggest the city’s summer-jobs program has helped protect the 20,000 kids who participated last year.

“Out of the 20,000, there were no shooting incidents with those kids,” said Evelyn Diaz, commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services.

One alderman, Howard Brookins, Jr., said publicly what several officers have worried about quietly: If the financially strapped city ever stops paying for overtime to flood high-crime areas with uniformed officers, the crime will spike again.

“Maybe one more year we can do it, but I don’t know how that can be sustainable long-term,” Brookins said.

Emanuel said he does not expect the department to spend nearly as much on police overtime this year as authorities shift their focus to a core group of about 1,000 offenders believed to be responsible for much of the crime.

“Last year we saturated the zones, and now we are going to be saturating the individuals creating the problem,” the mayor said.

The city will also have nearly 800 new officers on the streets who recently graduated from the police academy, he added.

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