Well here’s a story that might surprise you. Chicago’s notoriously high homicide rate has dropped for the third consecutive year. After a particularly dangerous 2016, the city seems to be on a positive trajectory.
Chicago — the country’s third most populous city — ended 2019 with 490 homicides. This represents a 13% drop from 2018 in which 564 homicides were recorded. It is a 35% drop from 2016 when the city experienced 756 murders, which was a two-decade high.
But it is not just homicides that have dropped; overall crime in Chicago has fallen as well. A preliminary report also showed fewer shootings in the city. In 2019, there were 2,139 instances of gun violence, which is down from 2,367 in 2018, a 9% drop.
The city’s leadership touted changes to the Chicago Police Department as the main reason why the crime rate has fallen. “I think that all of those things working together — being on the ground, supporting vulnerable victims, supporting vulnerable communities — led to the declines that we saw this year, and particularly over the course of the summer,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who took office in May after former Mayor Rahm Emanuel decided not to seek re-election.
Chicago’s Police Department benefited from the hiring of more officers and the adoption of community policing methods. Even better, the city has finally managed to make progress in increasing its murder clearance rate. One of the most detrimental problems with the city’s police department was its apparent inability to solve homicide cases. The biggest contributor to this problem was policies put into place by the previous mayor, who seemed to favor political correctness over enforcing the law. But now, things seem to have changed.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the city’s murder clearance in 2019 was 53%. In 2018, the department solved only 29% of the city’s homicides. The fact that many of the perpetrators of the city’s murders were often not caught is one of the most significant reasons why the homicide rate has remained so high. Individuals involved in these murders — which are most often gang-related — were rarely caught and convicted. This meant they could continue to commit these crimes with impunity, not having to worry about being sent to prison.
Anthony Guglielmi, the chief spokesman for the department, told The Chicago Sun-Times that the improved clearance rate is “the result of hiring more detectives and giving them technology to help with their investigations. The investments we are making in detectives are already showing gains.”
Under Emanuel, the city drastically reduced the number of detectives assigned to homicide cases. Even worse, he relocated most of the detectives working on anti-gang task forces and moved them to more affluent areas of the city. It’s not hard to imagine that this made it incredibly difficult for the city’s law enforcement to solve homicides. But now, the department has grown to about 1,180 detectives, which is a significant increase over the 969 it had in March 2016.
These new statistics are encouraging. But the city still remains one of the most violent in the country and more work will need to be done if this problem is going to be solved. It is not only better policing that prevents crime, it is also ensuring that the city’s government is implementing sound policies regarding the economy and education, areas which most inner cities under Democratic governance are lacking.
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