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Murders drop, but Chicago leads U.S.
Rate down sharply in last 6 months

By David Heinzmann
Tribune staff reporter
Published January 1, 2004

The five deputy police chiefs sat in a row, looking up at an immense video screen showing icons of guns and crumpled bodies that mapped shootings and murders in the last week.

It was a good week for most of them. Fewer guns. Fewer bodies.

In the last six months, slayings in Chicago were down from the same period last year. But the city was still poised on New Year's Eve to finish the year with more homicides than any other American city for the second time in three years.

Chicago had 599 homicides, compared with 594 in New York City and fewer than 500 in Los Angeles. But Chicago's homicide rate is three times that of New York, which has nearly three times the population.

Still, Chicago police feel a sense of momentum heading into 2004. As police commanders gathered Tuesday around the video screen in the Deployment Operations Center, there was a hopeful mood.

Around the corner of a long horseshoe of tables, Supt. Philip J. Cline and the rest of the department's top brass peppered the deputy chiefs with questions about unsolved murders and how their troops are deployed.

The new weekly meetings--part inquisition, part seminar and part pep rally--are the centerpiece of new tactics launched last June as police struggled to rein in the violence.

The meetings not only provide valuable intelligence and analysis for the week ahead, but also hold the performance of commanders and deputy chiefs up to the scrutiny of their peers and bosses.

"Nobody wants to be embarrassed here," Cline said after a recent meeting.

At Tuesday's meeting, Harrison Area Deputy Chief Charles Williams, whose West Side turf includes some of Chicago's most violent, gang-infested neighborhoods, had to deliver bad news. His investigators were looking into a new slaying, just two hours old.

It was two days before the end of the year and department officials had been touting the possibility that Chicago's total homicides could be fewer than 600 for the first time in 36 years.

Although still a staggering toll, fewer than 600 slayings would be a victory of sorts in a year that started out bleak for a police department that had promised major changes to combat murders.

In June, Chicago was 29 homicides ahead of the 2002 pace, but it will finish the year with about 50 fewer homicides than last year.

Historically, Chicago has lagged far behind New York City in the number of slayings. In 1990, New York had a record 2,245 homicides while Chicago had 849. Although both cities' homicide totals have dropped over the last decade, the decline in New York has been more dramatic.

Chicago's worst year was 1974, with 970 slayings. After dipping to 631 in 2000, the number shot up to 665 in 2001, and Chicago topped the nation in homicides. In 2002, the number fell to 648--second only to 658 in Los Angeles.

The trend of the last six months has pleased Cline. He took over the department in October, four months after setting up the Deployment Operations Center, partly inspired by New York's computerized crime analysis unit.

Cline also formed the Targeted Response Unit that floods hot spots and gave commanders the authority to shift special units around the city on short notice.

Daley encouraged by effort

The department's performance and the statistics are being watched closely by Mayor Richard Daley and his chief crime strategist, Matt Crowl, whom the mayor hired away from the U.S. attorney's office.

"The mayor is encouraged by the progress we've made. And the implications for 2004 are that we'll see continued progress," Crowl said. "If you look at the decreases in homicides since June 1 when the Police Department implemented the violence-reduction strategies, there's been over an 18 percent decrease in homicides [from the same period last year] That's good news."

Other innovations since Cline took over include sting operations intended to dismantle street corner drug operations, as well as putting officers usually assigned to desk duty on the street to deter narcotics dealing.

He also shook up the command staff in November, creating a team to tackle violent crimes in 2004.

Deputy Supt. Thomas Byrne, 54, was put in charge of crime strategy and accountability. John Risley, 50, left his post as the Central District commander to take over the gang and narcotics section.

Michael Cronin, 59, a respected officer with years of expertise dealing with gangs on the street, became the commander of the gang intelligence unit. James Molloy, 52, became chief of detectives, the post Cline had held for several years. Richard Stevens, 60, was promoted to chief of the organized crime section.

Cline also promoted a number of new commanders and deputy chiefs at the area and district levels.

Police also expect big dividends from reorganizing gang intelligence units. The units are now based at the city's five area headquarters, giving them a much broader territory to work in than their previous assignments in the 25 police districts.

Crowl said the change makes gang intelligence much more effective, as investigators work broader patches of the gang quilt covering Chicago.

"I think we're focusing on some of the gang intelligence in a much more robust way," Crowl said. "But this whole notion of having accurate, timely intelligence and using computers and command staff accountability to make sure you know what's happening and that you're deploying in a strategic way--that's key."

The new strategies place greater demands on officers on the street. They are shuffled from one spot to the next more frequently, forcing them to adjust quickly to situations in each new hot spot.

Cline credited his first deputy superintendent, Dana Starks, and chief of patrol, James Maurer, with marshaling the department's forces on the street.

"The officers under their command have performed magnificently this year in deploying into the hot spots and keeping the gang shootings down, so we're going to continue that as we go into 2004," Cline said.

As telling as the midyear turnaround in homicides may be, the 12 percent drop in non-fatal shootings from 2002 is also key, Cline said.

"We're really happy to report that we're still under 600 murders," he said Tuesday. "Equally important is that we're down 900 shootings compared to last year."

Gangs, guns and drugs

Chicago's homicide problem, Cline often says, is tied to the trinity of gangs, guns and drugs.

There are too many gangs squabbling over too little turf to sell drugs, and there are far too many guns available, police said. In 2002, Chicago police seized 10,182 guns. They seized nearly as many in 2003.

For people struggling to survive in the highest-crime neighborhoods, the police have a long way to go. Gangs still control too many street corners and threaten too many young lives.

Madilen Mercado, whose son Christopher Collazo was slain in March, said police need to do more to break the grip of gangs on neighborhoods like hers in Logan Square. At least half of the murders in the city are gang-related, police said.

Mercado's son was beaten, put in a cardboard box and set on fire, allegedly by three men who believed he had robbed one of them, authorities said.

Mercado, who founded Christopher's Club, a group of mothers whose children have been slain, said neighborhoods will not become safer until young people feel there are options to joining a gang.

"A solution is to give them alternatives," she said. "I feel they have nowhere else to turn."


Copyright © 2003, Chicago Tribune
 

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And on todays news it said that Chicago was the murder capital, with New York at no 2 and LA at no 3. That sounds like a real status symbol to me. One more thing, considence all three are on the most restrictive list as to guns, Humm I wonder if these bozo's will wake up and see the stats?:mad:
 

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Gary, Indiana blames Chicago Hoods for its murders!

Gary, Ind., Leads in Per Capita Homicides

Friday, January 02, 2004

GARY, Ind. — This northern Indiana city appeared to finish 2003 with the nation's highest per capita homicide rate for the ninth straight year, according to police statistics.



Police in Gary, population 103,000, investigated 69 suspicious deaths, 68 of which have been classified as homicides. That total was about 10 percent higher than the 62 in 2002, but down substantially from the 132 people killed in 1995, the Post-Tribune of Merrillville reported Friday.

Based on information from police in major U.S. cities, Gary was poised again to post the highest per capita homicide rate (search) for cities with population of more than 100,000, the newspaper reported.

Chicago, Gary's larger neighbor, finished 2003 with 599 homicides, the highest unofficial total among major U.S. cities.

Police said many of the violence in Gary is done by Chicago residents who move their homes or drug operations to the nearby Indiana city.

"As Chicago tears down its high-rise public housing buildings, many of those people are moving here," said Police Chief Garnett Watson.

Chicago Tops Nation in Homicides in 2003

Friday, January 02, 2004

CHICAGO — Despite a sharp drop in homicides, Chicago has regained a title it didn't want: America's murder capital.



The city finished 2003 with 599 homicides, police said Thursday. That was down from 648 a year earlier and the first time since 1967 that the total dipped below 600.

Still, the nation's third-largest city outpaced all others for the second time in three years. New York, with about three times the population, ended the year with 596 homicides. Los Angeles, which had the most murders in 2002 at 658, wound up 2003 with an estimated total just under 500.

Chicago's new police superintendent, Philip J. Cline, joined colleagues elsewhere in blaming homicides largely on a volatile mix of gangs, guns and drugs.

But officials pointed to a new system established in June, partly inspired by New York's computerized crime analysis unit, that contributed to an 18 percent drop in Chicago murders in the second half of 2003 compared with a year earlier.

In New York, the unofficial murder tally of 596 compared with 584 in 2002. That was a 2 percent jump but still made 2003 the city's second straight year below 600 — dramatically less than the 2,245 homicides recorded in 1990.

St. Louis logged its lowest murder total in more than four decades, a showing that police credited to aggressive efforts to track down violent offenders.

Police said there were 69 killings in the Gateway City in 2003, matching the total of 1962. The number was a 39 percent decrease from the 2002 total of 113.

St. Louis Police Chief Joe Mokwa said the addition of 100 more officers to the force and "the strategy of confronting the most violent offenders has left our neighborhoods more stable."

Baltimore homicides increased for the first time since 1998 as authorities said killings became more targeted, often in connection with the drug trade.

As of Wednesday, Baltimore reported 271 killings in 2003, compared with 253 in 2002. It was a 7 percent increase and the highest homicide total during the four-year tenure of Mayor Martin O'Malley (search), who campaigned on a pledge to reduce annual totals to 175.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark said part of the increase was due to gunmen hitting their victims with more bullets.

"They are not looking to shoot a guy in the leg to send a message," Clark said. "They are out to kill these guys."

Preliminary figures from the District of Columbia showed the homicide rate dropping 6 percent in the nation's capital, from 262 in 2002 to 247 last year. But 2004 began with two homicides in about nine hours.

No final figures were available for Detroit, but an FBI report in mid-December put the city on a pace to end 2003 with its fewest homicides since 1968. The total would be about 365, the FBI said.
 
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