Chicago’s Homicide Drop–Good Police Work Or Restructuring By Gangs?


The announcement from famously crime-ridden Chicago that violent crime in general, and homicides in particular, fell dramatically in 2013 quickly produced claims of credit from the police department. The Christian Science Monitor says some analysts suggesting that the drop – homicides fell 18 percent from 503 in 2012 to 415 in 2013, while shootings plummeted by 24 percent – can be attributed to other factors, including some that are internal to the gangs responsible for the bulk of the city's violence. “More intelligent policing prevents murder,” said Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

He cited a “gang audit” to focus on individual gang members and turf conflicts that may become factors in future violence, and police concentrating efforts in more than 20 “impact zones” on the city's South and West sides, where crime is more rampant. Criminologist Arthur Lurigio of Loyola University in Chicago said the dramatic surge in homicides in 2012 made it an unreliable benchmark for determining if the lowered number of homicides the following year was the result of a specific change in policing strategy. Compared with the 2011 total of 435, homicides in 2013 were only 5 percent lower. “The unusual spike in 2012 was attributable to a confluence of factors that came together that we are not likely to see in subsequent years,” Lurigio says. They include: An unusually warm winter and spring, and an “unprecedented gang fragmentation” that increased tensions in the most crime-ridden neighborhoods. Since then, gang structures have tightened so that there is more control of the streets.

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