Crime has dropped for the 14th consecutive year in Chicago, whichrecorded its lowest number of homicides in 40 years.
Chicago Police Supt. Philip J. Cline announced at a news conferenceTuesday afternoon that overall crime dropped 6.7 percent, according to statisticsreleased by the CPD.
“Reaching a 14 year low in overall crime is a remarkable accomplishment,” Cline said. “It demonstrates that when police and citizens become active partners in solving problems in their communities, things get better.”
Since 2003, the Chicago police have used a “broader rapid deployment strategy” that focuses specific resources, such as tactical units and surveillance cameras, on crime hotspots.
For homicides, the tactics have worked. Chicago ended 2005 with 447 homicides, one less than the year before and 152 fewer from the 599 recorded in 2003.
Thirteen of the 25 Chicago police districts saw a decrease in homicides in 2005, according police statistics. Overall, the city has seen significant drops in criminal sexual assault (7.9 percent), aggravated assault (8.4 percent), theft (12.1 percent), arson (11.5 percent) and property crimes (7.7 percent). Smaller drops were recorded in aggravated battery (2.4 percent), motor vehicle theft (1.3 percent) and violent crime (2.8 percent). Robberies remained stable.
Despite the decreases in crime, there are still many areas of concern for the Chicago police. One consistent problem for the city is street gangs, of which there are an estimated 60,000 members.
Forty-seven percent of Chicago’s 2005 homicides were gang related, police said.
“Reducing gang violence is perhaps our greatest challenge,” Cline said, “and we’re developing strategies and moving resources based on solid and timely information.”
Last year police closed 53 drug markets, targeted 27 gangs and secured charges against 735 drug dealers and gang members, Cline said.
Of particular concern to the police is how gang members obtain guns. Although the Chicago police confiscate over 10,000 guns a year, they turn up at a disturbing rate, according to Cline.
“You’d think one year after seizing 10,000 guns the next year it’d go down, but it doesn’t,” he said. “That just shows the easy availability of firearms to the gangs.”
Just over 75 percent of the homicides in 2005 involved a firearm.
According to the Chicago police, a large number of illegal guns coming into Chicago originate from suburban gun shops. A nearly equal number of guns have also been traced to Indiana and Mississippi, where the process of buying a gun is quick and simple.
To combat the gunrunning, Chicago police will begin working closely with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. At the beginning of the year the Illinois U.S. Attorney’s Office got the power to indict people from Mississippi and Indiana who have never stepped foot in Chicago if it is determined that they are responsible for sending illegal guns into Illinois.
The Chicago police will also deputize a number of officers, Cline said; thereby making them U.S. Marshals who can operate outside of Chicago and Illinois to help stop gun-running.
Concerns have also been raised that as the Chicago police have begun putting pressure on gangs, the gangs have turned to the suburbs. Cline reiterated that the Chicago police are working closely with suburban police to combat the influx of gang members.
The Chicago police now share their databases with a number of local suburbs in an attempt to increase broad local knowledge of criminal information.