A drug-fueled feud contributed to a slight rise in the number of Chicago homicides last year after four years of declining murders that included a 25 percent drop in 2004, the Chicago Tribune says. By Monday afternoon, police counted 466 murders in 2006, roughly a 4 percent increase over 2005’s 40-year low of 447. Gang conflicts included a bloody West Side struggle that claimed 19 lives in 2006, said Police Superintendent Philip Cline.
A major challenge is coping with tens of thousands of ex-convicts who are paroled to the city every year and rejoin the narcotics trade, Cline said. “We get 20,000 people a year back to the city of Chicago, and unfortunately if they don’t find jobs, that’s what they’re going to go back to,” Cline said. Chicago had the nation’s highest murder rates per 1,000 residents in 2001 and 2003. The current police approach stresses analyzing crime data to redeploy police to hot spots while holding commanders accountable for violence in their areas. Commanders and top brass meet every Friday to review how the department is doing with violent areas and to plan new moves. Cline says the department continues to focus on disrupting gang-run drug markets on street corners. Open-air drug dealing leads to turf disputes among gangs that often turn violent. Gang violence accounts for at least half of the city’s murders.