As Chicago police superintendent Jody Weis returns to the hot seat at a City Council budget hearing today, Chicago is outpacing New York and Los Angeles in 2008 murders, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Chicago, whose population is dwarfed by those cities, posted 426 killings through Tuesday, compared with 417 in New York and 302 in L.A. At the end of 1998, Chicago made international headlines as the U.S. “murder capital” after surpassing New York’s homicide totals for the first time ever. Chicago shed that distinction when murders plummeted over the last decade. In 1998, there were about 700 murders in the city, which is on pace to exceed 500 murders by the end of 2008.
Weis, a career FBI agent, took office this year with a mandate to clean up the department in the wake of several scandals. Murders have risen, and arrests have fallen, on his watch. (Murder is also up, at a lower rate, in New York.) Weis suggested to the council in July that there was a “degree of timidness” among officers afraid of having lawsuits and citizen complaints filed against them. Today, Weis may highlight as a different problem: Officers have spent nearly 5,000 hours filling out inventory forms in the first nine months of 2008. “We’d rather they be on the street,” said Beatrice Cuello, deputy superintendent of patrol.