Is Chicago cops’ new strategy driving the murder rate down?

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CHICAGO—Dubbed the deadliest city in America, Chicago showed signs of improvement through the first quarter of 2013, a move Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy say is a direct result of a coordinated strategy among the city and police.

According to police, Chicago’s murder rate dropped 69 percent in March, with 36 fewer murders than in March 2012. For the first quarter of 2013, murders fell 42 percent, which amounts to 50 fewer homicides than the first quarter of last year, police said.

“This progress is a result of the hard work of the dedicated men and women who work tirelessly to protect our streets, our partners in the community, ministers, teachers, principals, parents and residents,” McCarthy said in a statement Monday.

In the wake of Hadiya and Jonylah

Coming on the heels of murders that shook the city and the nation, including 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton and 6-month-old Jonylah Watkins’ deaths, Emanuel praised the plan he and McCarthy started enforcing last year. “The downward trend in murders and shootings represents positive progress through our comprehensive strategy, yet there is more work to be done,” said Emanuel.

Police said shooting incidents decreased 27 percent from the first quarter of 2012. Murders are also being solved at a higher rate. According to police, in the first quarter of 2013, the rate at which murders were solved was 74 percent, compared with 23 percent at the close of the first quarter of 2012.

Since gang wars have consistently driven crime up in the nation’s third-largest city, Emanuel and McCarthy composed a comprehensive gang reduction strategy that police put into action last year, McCarthy told theGrio.

A new strategy has taken effect

The strategy started with a gang audit last year, where police identified every gang member, gang, turf and who they were in conflict with. McCarthy says he and his team have made the information available in a database and put it into the hands of officers patrolling the streets. That way, if a gang shooting happens, police are equipped with all of the players involved, their rivals and where possible retaliation would come from. “Retaliation is the first thing that we need to stop,” McCarthy said.

Another part of the strategy, McCarthy says, is eliminating individual narcotics markets. When Chicago police discover places where drugs are being sold, they send officers to dismantle, make arrests if possible, then get the community involved as they bring city services to the area to clean up the drug markets and create more opportunity.

In addition to strategic policing, police said the city is “investing in stronger prevention by making sure kids have productive activities when out of school,” increasing after-school programs by 30 percent, doubling summer jobs for students and throwing more support behind mentoring programs.

Not declaring victory yet

First lady Michelle Obama will be in Chicago on April 10 to address local business and community leaders about providing more opportunities for young people and helping tackle youth violence in the city.

Chicago police said the strategy showed early signs of progress. According to McCarthy, the numbers are part of a six-month trend of a declining murder rate from the fourth quarter of 2012. In February, Chicago had 14 murders, “the best since January, 1957,” he said.

But McCarthy hasn’t declared victory over Chicago’s crime problem yet. “These numbers are progress, but they are by no means victory. We will continue to build on our larger crime reduction strategy to bring safety to every neighborhood,” he said.

Renita D. Young is a multimedia journalist based in Chicago. Follow her on Twitter @RenitaDYoung