As Chicago Murders Top 780, A New Focus on Guns

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When shootings spiked in January in Los Angeles, police quelled violence in the hardest-hit area by swiftly analyzing data and holding daily conference calls among station commanders to decide where to send officers. Shootings in that part of the city dropped. As a devastatingly violent year in Chicago ends, police in the city plan to launch a similar effort, focusing on two long-suffering police districts, reports the Chicago Tribune. Empowering district commanders and staff to analyze crime patterns and make quick, strategic decisions is part of the police department’s latest effort to find solutions to a surge in gun violence that has left more than 4,300 wounded and more than 780 dead, the city’s most homicides since 1997. (The Tribune’s unofficial count of homicides was 781; the city’s preliminary count was 762). The unrelenting year of violence, with an increase of 57 percent in homicides, left few parts of the city untouched and immeasurable sorrow and shock in its wake. For those in the most dangerous neighborhoods, “the violence began to feel almost normal, and a hopelessness set in,” the Tribune says.

Some, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, linked the increase the fallout from the Laquan McDonald shooting scandal that exposed the Police Department’s frayed relations with the city’s minority communities and contributed to complex problems that law enforcement face in 2017. They include a fractured gang structure with young, impulsive members; an endless supply of guns on the street; a police force grown hesitant amid heightened criticism; and crime surging in neighborhoods that for decades have suffered from inadequate resources and opportunity. A report from the University of Chicago Crime Lab could find no single reason for the meteoric increase in the city’s homicides and shootings. A crackdown on criminals with guns is a major focus of authorities going into the new year. Also essential, experts say, is restoring police morale and improving officer training. In a tweet, President-elect Donald Trump suggested that if Emanuel can’t reduce violent crime, “he must ask for Federal help!”

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