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Chicago murder rate drops for second year in a row

Posted at 4:42 PM, Dec 31, 2018

Chicago saw a significant drop in murders and gun violence for the second year in a row, according to police. Across the city, there were 100 fewer murders than in 2017, when 650 people were killed . Overall crime is down 10% since 2016, the year Chicago recorded its highest murder rate in two decades , with 762 people killed.

Chicago Police credit the drop in violence partly to "investments in data-driven policing and the creation of strategic decision support centers in 20 of the city's 22 police districts," according to a Chicago police news release.

Data-driven policing uses information from multiple sources to help police learn where crimes are happening and where they are likely to happen. Police said the decision support centers harness technology such as crime cameras and gunshot detection systems to help officers prevent crime and increase response times.

The city has struggled to contain violence in almost every major category of crime since 2016, after the release in late 2015 of police dashcam video that showed a white police officer shooting a black teenager 16 times. Laquan McDonald, 17, was holding a knife as he walked away from multiple police officers who were following him. The video's release led to massive protests throughout 2016. In October of this year, a jury found Police Officer Jason Van Dyke guilty of second degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm in the killing. He is in jail awaiting sentencing.

This year the city also experienced one of its most violent weekends in recent memory when 66 people were shot, 12 of them fatally, in at least 33 shooting incidents .

However, overall shootings fell 14% compared to 2017, and have dropped 32% since 2016, according to police statistics. For the second straight year, robberies declined by 19% and burglaries were down 10%. Carjackings also dropped 19%; earlier this year, police launched the Vehicular Hijacking Task Force, a partnership with the US Attorney's Office and other agencies.

Police said they seized almost 10,000 guns in 2018, representing a 9% increase from 2017 and the highest number of confiscated guns in the last five years, more than one illegal gun seized every hour of the year.

The city also kept a 2016 pledge made by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to add 1,000 police officers to the department, a goal that was reached earlier this month.

In an effort to increase community trust in police, the department announced it is planning to provide cell phones for detectives "to improve communication with victims and witnesses."

Re-establishing trust with members of the community has been one of the long-term goals of the police department, which has struggled to get witnesses to come forward with information on murders and other crimes.

Emanuel was criticized earlier this year after partly blaming violence on a lack of morals. "There are too many guns on the street, too many people with criminal records on the street, and there is a shortage of values of what is right and what is wrong," he said after the August 19 record weekend violence.

Many of his critics were among the more than 18 mayoral contenders campaigning to replace Emanuel since his decision not to seek re-election . One of the most important issues facing the new mayor after the election in February will be trying to sustain the reduction in the violence that continues to plague the nation's third-largest city.