Chicago police tout 14% homicide drop, and concede there’s more to do
Chicago police Friday touted a 14% drop in homicides so far this year compared with an exceptionally bloody 2016, saying staffing investments and other strategies are reducing the kinds of violence that left some neighborhoods in despair.
Still, the number of killings in the nation’s third-largest city in 2017 remains higher than in almost any other year of the past decade — and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said his officers know there’s more to do.
“I would say … we’re making progress. … But it’s going to take time to root out everything we need to do,” Johnson told reporters Friday outside a church on the city’s southwest side.
More than 620 people have been killed in the city so far in 2017, the Chicago Tribune reports. Chicago police say that’s a 14% decline from this point last year — a year that ended with 786 homicides.
Johnson also highlighted the following stats for the year’s first 11 months as evidence the Windy City is making strides:
• 703 fewer shootings, a 21% decline from this point in 2016;
• 798 fewer shooting victims, a 20% decline.
But while the number of killings may be down this year from last, this year’s 624 homicides already total well above most yearly tallies in Chicago for the past decade.
“It’s important to keep in mind these numbers aren’t a spike of the football by any means,” but an indication progress is being made, Johnson said.
Johnson and City Alderman Jason Ervin, who also attended Friday’s news conference, acknowledged that current crime levels still sow fear in neighborhoods.
“Definitely, it’s going to take some time to translate into people feeling safer, but definitely, it’s a positive start,” Ervin told CNN affiliate WGN.
Crime-fighting investments made
The 786 homicides in 2016 represented a spike of more than 60% over 2015. It was the largest single-year homicide increase in 25 years among the five most populous US cities, according to the Justice Department.
Between 2007 and 2015, the number of yearly homicides in Chicago hovered between 400 and just about 500.
Johnson said certain investments, including technology, have helped police tackle crime this year.
That includes putting “strategic decision support centers” in neighborhoods that have struggled with violence, he said.
Those centers use predictive crime software that helps police commanders decide where to deploy officers. They also provide “additional cameras, gunshot detection systems, and mobile phones to officers in the field who receive real-time notifications and intelligence data at their fingertips,” Chicago police say on their website.
The department also is in the midst of a hiring spree that will see the roster grow by 1,000 officers, Johnson said.
In June, the police department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced a new task force aimed at decreasing the spread of illegal guns throughout Chicago.
The task force includes an additional 20 ATF agents, as well as 12 Chicago police officers, two Illinois state troopers, six intelligence analysts and state and federal prosecutors.
Neighbors’ lax gun laws cited
Though Chicago has a reputation as a murder haven, it hasn’t had the nation’s highest per-capita homicide rate. In 2015, 13 large cities — population 250,000 or more — had higher murder rates (murders per 100,000 people). That didn’t include a host of midsized cities with more murders per 100,000 residents.
Also, cities such as Atlanta; Washington; Oakland, California; Memphis, Tennessee; and Kansas City, Missouri, all had higher violent crime rates in 2015.
But Chicago’s murder rate has been higher than that of the country’s two larger cities, Los Angeles and New York. Johnson was asked whether Chicago’s reputation as a violent place bothered him.
“It’s frustrating, because when you look at the crime in Chicago, we have our challenges. We have our gun violence,” he said. “Chicago is so big that we get a lot of attention because New York and L.A., quite frankly, are seeing bigger reductions than we are.”
Lax gun laws in surrounding states also put Chicago at a disadvantage, compared with New York and Los Angeles, Johnson said.
“We’re sitting between Wisconsin and Indiana, who have very lax gun laws, so the illegal flow of guns coming into this city is a lot larger than theirs,” he said. “That just means we have more illegal guns on our streets.”