Homicides, Shootings Decline for Third Consecutive Year in Chicago

In a statement, the city credited new investments in street outreach efforts, data-driven policing strategies and strengthened community partnerships for the decline in violence to the lowest levels since 2015.


Chicago Tribune

By Jeremy Gorner

CHICAGO -- Homicides fell below 500 last year in Chicago for the first since 2015, marking the third consecutive year of double-digit decreases, official police statistics show.

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The department said Wednesday that 492 people were killed last year, a 13% drop from 567 in 2018 and the fewest since 490 in 2015.

The number of shooting victims fell as well, though shy of double-digit levels. For the full year, 2,611 people were shot, an 8% decline from 2,838 in 2018, the department said. Shooting incidents fell to 2,151 last year, a 9.7% drop from 2,381 in 2018.

In a statement, the city credited new investments in street outreach efforts, data-driven policing strategies and strengthened community partnerships for the decline in violence to the lowest levels since 2015.

Make no mistake, our work will not end until Chicago is the safest big city in the country," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in the statement. "By investing in our South and West Side neighborhoods and addressing the root causes of gun violence, we can build on this progress in 2020 and continue making meaningful gains in public safety in communities throughout the city."

Police officials also touted an improvement in its detectives' rate for solving homicides -- known as the clearance rate -- to about 53% in 2019, up from about 29% in 2016, crediting improved technology designed to help detectives work more efficiently with video and the addition of about 300 detectives to its ranks. These rates are a combination of homicides solved during the same year they occurred as well as cases from past years that were also solved in 2019.

Police consider a case cleared when they make an arrest or identify a suspect that they can't charge for myriad reasons, most commonly because Cook County prosecutors found the evidence insufficient. According to city crime data through Dec. 23, Chicago police made arrests in 101 out of 486 homicides, a rate of about 21% for 2019.

The continued drop in violence for 2019 marked a significant turnaround for Chicago from a disastrous 2016 when nearly 780 people were slain and more than 4,300 people shot, the most violent year in two decades.

Still, the city has far to go match New York City and Los Angeles despite each being more populous than Chicago. By contrast, NYC and L.A. totaled just over 1,800 shooting victims combined, far fewer than Chicago by itself, according to their latest figures. Through Dec. 22, New York has posted 311 homicides, while Los Angeles reported 252 homicides through Dec. 21."

Chicago's homicide tally for 2019 could climb a bit if some of its pending "death investigations" are later reclassified as slayings. In addition, the police department does not count shootings or homicides that are considered in self-defense or happen on state expressways or other state property.

Chicago police officials attribute the continuing declines in homicides and shootings in part to the technology centers in most of the department's 22 patrol districts used to better predict where shootings might occur and help respond quicker to the gunfire.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune last month, Lightfoot called the department's increased reliance on technology "a game changer," citing how video from surveillance cameras led to the arrest in September of a bike-riding suspect who shot a woman out for lunch in the Fulton River District in the downtown area.

She and her handpicked interim police superintendent, Charlie Beck, have separately touted the department's use of major citywide antiviolence programming that offers jobs, gang conflict mediation and victim support."

In a separate interview with the Tribune last month, Beck, a former longtime police chief in Los Angeles, said those street workers also played a key role in reducing violence in L.A. When police show support for such "unlikely allies," Beck said, that will help build trust between officers and those distressed communities.

"The main value of it is that it reaches out to primarily young men -- because that's what the demographic is for violence -- in a way that cops cannot, to get them to start changing," he said.

Patrol districts covering some of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods saw significant drops in gun violence in 2019.

According to official police statistics through Sunday, homicides in the Calumet District on the South Side dropped nearly in half to 33 from 60 during same period in 2018. Shooting incidents fell to 164, a 15% drop from the year earlier period.

On the West Side, shooting incidents in the Austin District dropped to 149, down 19% from 184 a year earlier, but homicides fell more modestly to 40, down from 46.

But there were exceptions. Shooting incidents in the South Side's South Chicago District jumped 30% over a year earlier.

One of the city's safest areas, the North Side's Lincoln District, didn't record a single homicide for the year.

But in another historically safe area, killings skyrocketed to 10 through Sunday in the Jefferson Park District on the Northwest Side, compared to just two last year, statistics show. That was largely the result of the killing of five people in a condo building in the Dunning community. Krysztof Marek, 67, who faced eviction from the building, was charged in those slayings.

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