As a city, Chicago should realize that “we are likely to have the murder rate we choose,” editorializes the Chicago Tribune. The newspaper says that only in Chicago, where murder “is a macabre civic pathology and an almost daily habit, would the slaughter of more than 400 people in 2013 be cause for relief.” With last year’s 503 killings still haunting the city, this year’s 410 through Dec. 26 is an improvement. These two years flank by nearly equal margins the typical murder toll here: Chicago has averaged some 458 killings in each of the last 10 years.
Criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University says, “The good news for Chicago is that your murder toll is way down. But the odds say it’ll probably go up next year.” The usual Chicago response to murder surges is for public officials and citizens alike to ask what police did to let the numbers rise — or, in good years, to ask how they drove the numbers down. All sorts of other factors drive the murder toll: the availability of guns, gang tensions, the quality of paramedic care victims receive, even the density of traffic an ambulance encounters between a crime scene and a trauma center. Putting more “cops on the dots” — that is, intensifying the police presence where violence occurred is likely to occur — saves lives by the hundreds. The Tribune calls for “improving the schools, strengthening families and curbing the power of other problems to increase the crime rate.”