A year ago, Chicago made national headlines with the soar of shootings and homicides. According to the FBI, by the end of 2012, the city’s police department had logged in over 500 murders, a number surpassing the largest cities in the country, even New York and Los Angeles. As the final days of 2013 approach us, the murders have dropped drastically—the lowest in 40 years.
Overall crime has lowered as well: to date, close to 62,400 major crimes have been tallied, a 15 percent drop of the 74, 078 crimes committed in 2012. A new study conducted by Yale University shows Chicago is on pace for the lowest homicide rate since 1967 and the lowest crime rate since 1972. The study sheds some light on a city the media has branded the murder capital of America. In 2012, Chicago was ranked 19th in the country in violent crime behind cities like Philadelphia and Detroit. According to the study, crime is significantly divided in the city. The highest rates of violence and homicides are concentrated in the South and West side communities such as East and West Garfield Park, Fuller Park and Englewood.
The months following a bloody 2012, the Chicago Police Department initiated an integrated strategy to crack down on crime immediately. By cracking down on turf rivalries between gangs and focusing on over 400 gang members most likely to be either a victim or suspect in a murder, police were able to plan accordingly.
“Saturating high-crime areas with additional officers, using intelligence to prevent retaliatory gang shootings, moving officers from administrative positions back to the streets and partnering with the community,” said Chicago Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy on other tactics explaining for the drop in crime. These past months, the department has been dispatching 400 officers a day in 20 small areas labeled the most dangerous in the city. Officers have begun covering these hot spots by foot, a practice abandoned years ago. Many have been working overtime — an estimated $93 million is expected to be spent in overtime, according to the department.
Critics and leaders of the police union have challenged Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s efforts at sustaining such police presence without increasing the force and raising taxes. At a recent press conference, Emanuel spoke about the drop of violent crime this year in 67 of the 77 Chicago neighborhoods. “We’re not going to rest until people feel the reality of these numbers,” he stated.
Another major focus by McCarthy is lowering shootings. Last year, there were 440 slayed by shootings and a total of 2,364 shootings occurred in the city. This year, there have been 329 deaths resulting from shootings and 1,756 in total shootings.
These statistics did very little to convince those residing in the most troubled neighborhoods that the city is safer. “We appreciate the police department for trying to make changes in the community, but I just don’t trust their numbers,” said Ellyson Carter, leader of the nonprofit justice group Action Now. “It almost feels like they are covering something up.”
“If you ask me, nothing has changed. I’m still scared to let the kids play in front of the house,” said Magnolia Howard of Englewood. Benjamin Blade, another Englewood resident, told the media: “There are a lot of killings. Every time I turn on the news, there are killings,” he said.
In a recent shooting in West Pullman, 22-year-old Mason Smith was fatally shot on the 11600 block of South Bishop Street.
“Everybody knows everybody on the block. I never expected that at all,” said Smith’s mother. “It’s been a really nice neighborhood to live in, but lately it’s been terrible, more crime and more shootings.”