Chicago’s preliminary murder total for last year was 445, a drop of 155 from 2003’s nation-leading total of 600, the Chicago Tribune reports. The last week of December capped a historic year that demonstrated the success of new police strategies focused on pinpointing gang conflicts and moving resources quickly to suppress shootings. In addition to the 25 percent drop in murders, non-fatal shootings fell by 39 percent in 2004.
Police Superintendent Philip Cline has promised to continue the trend this year, but he is wary of making pronouncements about how steeply crime might continue to drop. One statistic officials hope to see improve in 2005 is homicide clearance. Solved murder cases improved in 2004, but detectives still cleared fewer than half of the year’s homicides. The clearance rate rose to about 47 percent from 40 percent in 2003. In taking credit for the decline in murders, police also recognize that the underlying conditions that lead to violence have not changed. The market for drugs still exists, and despite seizing a record number of guns–more than 10,474 in 2004–the supply of weapons remains undiminished.