As the first quarter of 2017 draws to a close, Chicago police are encouraged by a slight drop in violence in the city’s traditionally most violent pockets of the South and West sides long plagued by poverty, gang activity and drug-dealing, the Chicago Tribune reports. While the numbers are down from a disastrous 2016 when in excess of 4,300 people were shot, more than 760 of them fatally, the first three months of 2017 still rank as one of the deadliest starts to a year in nearly two decades. Through Wednesday, 124 people were slain in Chicago, 9.5 percent down from 137 a year earlier. Over the same period, 685 people were shot, almost 13 percent down from 786 a year earlier.
A spate of shootings yesterday showed how volatile those numbers can be. Within four hours, five people were found fatally shot in the South Shore neighborhood, and four others were injured in shootings across the city. With the exception of 2016, the 124 homicides police have officially logged through Wednesday still mark the most for the first three months of a year in at least 17 years. New York City and Los Angeles, both far more populous than Chicago, continue to experience far less violence. Through March 19, New York posted 55 homicides and 138 shooting victims, while Los Angeles reported 56 homicides and 226 shooting victims through March 18. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson pointed to a sharp rise in gun arrests so far this year — 937 through Sunday, a 47 percent increase over 637 a year earlier — as proof officers are not sitting on the sidelines after the fallout over the release of video from the Laquan McDonald shooting was believed to have caused a pullback by officers.