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Though Chicago Murders Are Down, 'Gang Culture' Remains an Issue: Top Cop

By Tanveer Ali | December 29, 2014 4:08pm
 Supt. Garry McCarthy said the number of Chicago murders are at the lowest level since 1965.
Supt. Garry McCarthy said the number of Chicago murders are at the lowest level since 1965.
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DNAinfo/Tanveer Ali

CHICAGO — Chicago is poised to have the lowest number of murders in years, but the city's "gang culture" continues to be an obstacle to fighting crime in the city, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said.

As of Dec. 20, Chicago Police counted 390 murders in 2014, compared with 406 the previous year and 488 through the same period in 2012.

(DNAinfo's count is higher than that of the police department. It differs because it also includes State Police cases as well as cases ruled as homicides by the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office, but not Chicago Police.)

While murders are down this year, there have been about 2,500 shootings in Chicago through Dec. 20, according to police data. That's 13 percent higher than in 2013. But it's also 14 percent lower than in 2012.

"We had some problematic areas in city this year where there have been a number of gang conflicts that, believe it or not, are still brewing," McCarthy said at a Monday news conference.

He also noted that the number of shootings are the second-lowest of any year on record.

"We haven't changed the gang culture," McCarthy said. "The reason why shootings are up in those neighborhoods is because there are so many guns. If these guys are throwing rocks at each other, we wouldn't have these problems."

This year, police had a "summer surge," adding dozens of officers on overtime to patrol some of the city's highest-crime areas.

The city has also taken steps to talk to gang members across the city. Chief Robert Tracy, who runs the police department's crime control strategy, told DNAinfo that the police department has "gang call-in" programs in six of the city's police districts.

Tracy said police bring in a few dozen gang members all at once, many of opposing factions, to give them a message: "'We do not want you arrested and we don't want you in jail. But if you don't put your guns down, we will target your gang specifically.'"

While McCarthy touted a drop in murders and overall crime, he also noted another statistic: the number of illegal guns police find in Chicago.

On average, Chicago Police confiscate on average 19 illegal firearms each day. That's seven times the rate in New York City and three times the rate in Los Angeles.

"I understand that I continually report this statistic, but that is because of its importance," Supt. Garry McCarthy said.

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