Chicago homicide rate down 18% from last year
We reported on the staggering increase in homicides in Chicago during 2012 so it seems only fair that we report a decrease in the kill rate for 2013.
The numbers are actually a little deceiving as the Chicago Tribune points out:
Homicides dropped 18 percent in Chicago last year and crime overall was down 16 percent, according to statistics released by the police department this morning.
The decline in homicides was a more modest 5 percent when compared with 2011. The department reported 435 homicides in 2011, 503 in 2012 and 415 in 2013.
Shootings across the city dropped by 24 percent from 2012 and 16 percent from 2011, according to the department's numbers. Sexual assaults were down 6 percent from last year, robberies down 12 percent, serious battery down 16 percent, burglaries down 22 percent, motor vehicle thefts down 23 percent, thefts down 3 percent.
The reductions came at a price: Nearly $100 million in overtime pay, triple what was budgeted for 2013.
In addition to the hefty overtime pay, police officials credit several strategies including greater accountability from commanders and more aggressive attempts to prevent retaliatory shootings. The harsher winter weather, compared with unseasonably warm conditions a year earlier, also likely played a role.
Homicides peaked in Chicago at more than 900 a year in the early to mid-1990s. Violence has since been on a steady decline, a trend also seen across the country.
Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy has acknowledged that violence remains stubbornly high in Chicago. Despite being the nation's third most populous city, Chicago recorded far more homicides than New York, Los Angeles and every other city in America.
After taking a public relations beating in 2012, when homicides topped 500 for only the second time in a decade, McCarthy moved 200 officers off desk duty in February to bolster roving "saturation teams" aimed at suppressing outbreaks of violence in the most dangerous parts of the city.
McCarthy had disbanded two citywide strike forces in 2012, assigning them to beat patrol, and critics blamed that move for the spike in violence.
Also this year, the superintendent doubled the number of veteran officers working overtime on their days off to 400, a figure that stayed constant until the summer months, typically the most violent of the year. Beginning in the summer, the department winnowed down overtime officers and replaced them with rookie cops working straight time on foot patrol.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel tried to do law enforcement on the cheap and it cost him. His $190 million in budget cuts in 2012 cut the force by 1400 and limited the overtime officers could collect. The high profile anti-gang initiatives he ended caused an explosion in gang violence.
As noted above, spending more money and hiring more police was the least the city could do to stem the bloodflow. The situation is marginally better today, but Emanuel is already proposing cuts in the 2014 budget that will reduce overtime and take some officers off the street.
The city's budget realities may end up costing more lives in the long run.