Chicago police believe they held down the murder rate by using narcotics squads, teams of gang analysts, and swarms of police officers patrolling neighborhoods, says the Chicago Tribune. To push those numbers down further in 2006, police will have to venture into new territory–coordinating the anti-crime efforts of educators and other groups who offer after-school programs, tutoring, and a spate of church-based initiatives in high-crime neighborhoods. “We know that unless these kids have someplace to go after school,” they’re going to be at risk of gang involvement, said Police Superintendent Philip Cline. He said it is critical to involve schools and churches in the effort because “that’s the heart of the community.” Unofficially, the final murder tally for Chicago in 2005 was 447, just below last year’s four-decade low of 448. .
Cline quietly launched a pilot program in two patrol beats in early November with assistance from the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, other church organizations and the anti-violence group CeaseFire. “We’re looking to expand it across the city,” Cline said. The police department’s decision to lead the way by coordinating community anticrime efforts is novel, and a potential breakthrough in the way law enforcement addresses public safety, said CeaseFire Executive Director Gary Slutkin. While police departments took credit for the big drops in crime in the 1990s, sociologists who study crime say other issues were at play, such as the economy and harsher drug-sentencing laws. The steady drop during the 1990s “applied to virtually every big city in the country,” said Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. “The good economy was so deep that it affected young men in the inner cities. With the new century, that ended.”