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Chicago Homicides Drop, Challenges Remain

© Scott Olson/Getty Images Chicago police investigate a murder in June 2017. Homicides in the city are down sharply through the first three months of 2018.

By Tala Salem,  U.S. News & World Report

Homicides in Chicago so far this year have dropped by nearly a quarter from where they stood at this time in each of the last two years, when a heightened pace of killings drew headlines across the country and injected the city into a national political debate about urban violence.

[post_ads]Recent statistics from theChicago Police Department show the city of roughly 2.7 million people recorded 109 homicides through the first three months of 2018, down sharply from the 144 at this point in 2017 and the 145 seen in 2016. The figures are still well above what Chicago experienced earlier in the decade, when the total for the first quarters of 2014 and 2015 did not break triple digits, but officials lauded the progress made in bringing the totals down from their recent highs.

"The progress we have seen in the first quarter of the year is a direct result of the hard work of our officers and the investments we have made to make CPD a better agency for everyone," police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a statement, reported byNPR. "Our work is far from over. We will continue our hiring plan and identify ways we can continue to integrate technology into the crime fight."

The numbers of those killed in the city last year dropped from 771 in 2016 to 650 last year.

"We have come down from a really high homicide rate in 2016 but we still have a long way to go," says Harold Pollack, co-director of the University of Chicago Urban Labs, which has been studying the factors behind the violence in the city and how to stem it.

Earlier this year, the university issued a report crediting a new method of data-driven policing with reductions in crime in some persistently violent areas. Last year, the department launched what it calls Strategic Decision Support Centers in districts that have presented historical challenges with violence. The centers include predictive crime software that helps police leadership make deployment decisions and facilitates preventive measures for violent crime. Englewood, a neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago where the first centers were established, showed a 35 percent drop in shootings at the end of 2017, the university noted.

Crime in Chicago has been decreasing for the past two years, according to police, who noted that gun violence was down in March for the 13th straight month. Chicago has historically been listed among the U.S. cities with the highest number of homicides. The most deadly year for Chicago since 1996 was 2016, when it saw 27.7 killings per 100,000 residents and the largest number of people slain of any U.S. city.

President Donald Trump commented on the need to mitigate the sharp uptick in violent crime in 2016, tweeting: "If Mayor can't do it he must ask for Federal help!"

Attorney General Jeff Sessions in an August address singled out Chicago, suggesting that its so-called "sanctuary" policies prohibiting certain cooperations with federal immigration enforcement have contributed to a culture of "lawlessness" in the city. Those statements have led to open feuding between federal and city officials.
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The uptick in killings was particularly worrying because it did not seem to follow any sort of nationwide trend. Chicago had more homicides in 2016 than the far larger cities of Los Angeles and New York combined, and its increase in homicides accounted for a significant proportion of the increase across the U.S. in total.

Overall, crime in Chicago has decreased 9 percent from 2016, according to police data, with double-digit decreases in robberies and burglaries against the previous two years. Despite those reductions, sexual assault complaints jumped 15 percent compared to 2017 and 22 percent compared to 2016.

Johnson said police need to form lasting partnerships with communities they serve and identify ways to better integrate technology into the fight against crime. According to the superintendent, the department's work in bringing down crime is "far from over."

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report

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