Reported violent crime in Chicago declined during the first six months of 2003, but police continue to grapple with a gang-related homicide problem keeps the city among the bloodiest in the country, the Chicago Tribune says. Overall, violent crime was down in 21 of Chicago’s 25 police districts, including some of the city’s toughest areas. Homicides were up 11, or 4 percent, over last year.
As of yesterday, Chicago had 333 homicides this year–five more than at the same date last year. The city is on pace to again exceed 600 homicides. Chicago topped the nation in homicides in 2001 with 665 and had 650 last year, second only to Los Angeles. Through mid-July, Chicago had more homicides than either Los Angeles or New York.
The end of July marks a critical time for the Police Department’s efforts to battle homicide. The redeployment plan that the department came up with after Mayor Richard Daley balked at redrawing patrol beats will be in full swing. A “targeted response unit” of 100 police officers who will plunge into violent hot spots around the city to quell gang retaliation for shootings will begin operating early next week.
The Police Department is under pressure from City Hall to lower the homicide total. Chicago had the fifth highest homicide rate among cities with populations above 500,000 last year, but it far outpaces Los Angeles and New York. Through July 19, Los Angeles had 279 homicides, nearly 20 percent fewer than last year. Through July 13, New York had 313 homicides, a 4.3 percent increase.