Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Despite bloody weekend, Chicago's murder rate is down, police chief says

By Tricia Escobedo, CNN
updated 2:38 AM EDT, Fri April 25, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • More than 40 people were shot over Easter weekend in Chicago
  • Nevertheless, the city's homicide rate is trending downward, police chief says
  • "A week doesn't wipe out two years of progress," says Police Supt. Garry McCarthy
  • McCarthy is pushing for stricter gun laws

(CNN) -- If you read the headlines out of Chicago this past Easter weekend -- more than 40 shot, including nine killed -- you might be surprised to learn that the city's homicide rate is still trending downward, according to the police chief.

Yes, that's right: Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy told WGN Radio this week that Chicago's homicide rate is "still ahead of where we were last year, which was a record." The number of homicides in Chicago last year dropped to 415, compared to 503 in 2012, an 18% drop. That lower level hasn't been seen since 1965.

"A week doesn't wipe out two years of progress," McCarthy told WGN Radio's Steve Cochran in an interview Monday. "We always knew that we're going to have good days and we're going to have bad days, we've just got to make sure we're having more good days than bad."

But does a lower murder rate really matter in Chicago, where such rampant gun violence has earned the city the nickname "Chiraq"?

Chicago violence spurs calls for action
Student flees Chicago, fearing violence
Chicago gangs can't scare couple
Chicago reels from 2013 mass shooting
Boxing keeps kids off Chicago streets

"People always say, 'I don't feel much better, even though shootings might be down by 40%,'" McCarthy told CNN. "Well, the reason for that is kind of simple. If you have 10 shootings in your neighborhood last year, and you have six shootings in your neighborhood this year, do you feel 40% better? Absolutely not."

There are some Chicago neighborhoods -- poorer, less educated, predominantly African-American and infested with gangs -- that have murder rates 10 times higher than other Chicago areas.

McCarthy says the news coverage of shooting incidents like the ones that took place last weekend doesn't paint a complete picture of the police response.

"We are getting out in front of a lot of shootings," the police chief told CNN. "It's hard to see success sometimes when you have a spate of shootings."

Chicago's gun violence typically heats up as the temperature rises, so the police department has banked some overtime to deploy more officers to the city's trouble spots.

In the meantime, McCarthy is using the unwanted attention around the bloody Easter weekend to push legislators to pass gun control laws that he says will help police turn things around in Chicago.

"It's just insanity that there's such a proliferation of firearms that they're so easy to get your hands on," McCarthy told WGN Radio on Monday. "The studies show when there's more restrictive gun laws, there's less gun violence. It's not brain surgery, it's really really simple.

"It's going to take us a while to fix poverty and the break-up of the family units and education and jobs. But we can do something about gun laws today and we're just not doing it."

That may be an uphill climb: In February, a federal judge struck down Chicago's ban on gun sales, saying it went "too far in outright banning legal buyers and legal dealers from engaging in lawful acquisitions." And in 2010, the Supreme Court declared Chicago's 28-year-old handgun ban unconstitutional.

Making it even more difficult, last year, Illinois became the 50th state to allow its residents to carry concealed weapons after a veto from its governor failed to kill the legislation.

McCarthy may get some limited help from the feds at least in keeping repeat criminals off the street: the office of newly appointed U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon announced Monday the creation of a violent crimes section to focus on how to more effectively use federal statues to prosecute those behind Chicago's gun violence, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Shortly after Rahm Emanuel took over as Chicago's mayor in early 2011, he brought in McCarthy, who had previously led the police force in Newark, New Jersey. A year into McCarthy's term, he was hailed as a hero.

Then, the city's homicide rate skyrocketed at end of 2012 and there were calls for McCarthy's resignation.

As the murder rate started to drop, those calls abated -- but Chicago's police and city leaders, particularly Rahm Emanuel, still face a lot of criticism for not doing enough.

Opinion: It's not Emanuel's fault that Chicago is divided

McCarthy, a regular on CNN's original series "Chicagoland," has admitted that the city "has one of the worst, most difficult, most intractable gang violence problems in the country."

And he's made it clear that his top priority is "dealing with gangs, guns and the press."

"The media, they keep talking about the rising toll of gun violence in Chicago while the numbers are going in the other direction," McCarthy said last year.

CNN's George Howell and Jen Christensen contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:26 PM EST, Thu March 6, 2014
In this clip from CNN's original series "Chicagoland," Fenger High School principal Liz Dozier talks to a student about a shooting that targeted kids walking to school.
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Wed March 19, 2014
Is it possible to transform a violent gang into a force for good? Lonza "Batman" Harris Jr. talks about his "hidden agenda" to change the Gangster Disciples from within.
A visual look at how Chicago's people, cost of living, and sports teams compare to New York and Los Angeles.
updated 2:38 AM EDT, Fri April 25, 2014
If you read the headlines out of Chicago on Easter weekend -- more than 40 shot, including nine killed -- you might be surprised to learn that the city's homicide rate is still trending downward, according to the police chief.
csitpotd
Go to your favorite spot in the city, film a 15-second video and tell us what you love about living in Chicago.
updated 11:02 PM EDT, Thu April 3, 2014
Chicago author and poet Kevin Coval writes that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is building two Chicagos, "One for the rich, one for the poor. One for private schools, one for closed schools."
updated 12:03 PM EDT, Fri March 14, 2014
Live in Chicago's swanky Streeterville neighborhood and you might never hear a gunshot. But a few miles to the west or south, it's a very different story.
updated 11:47 AM EDT, Thu March 27, 2014
A rising star from Chicago's South Side, Chance the Rapper, balances fame and the harsh realities of his violent hometown.
updated 11:19 AM EDT, Thu April 3, 2014
When a college student walks into a Chicago barber shop to get a trim, his barber's story changes the way he sees his hometown.
updated 9:19 AM EST, Tue March 4, 2014
Filmmaker Marc Levin discusses the motivation behind the CNN Original Series "Chicagoland."
updated 8:40 AM EDT, Mon April 28, 2014
A gallery of images chronicling Chicago's transformation from small trading post to global city.
updated 8:22 AM EDT, Tue March 11, 2014
If President Obama's Chicago-based "Becoming a Man" initiative is to be successful, transformations are needed in our social institutions as well.
updated 7:54 AM EST, Fri March 7, 2014
9-yr-old Asean Johnson speaks out against Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's school shutdown proposal.
updated 1:07 AM EST, Tue March 4, 2014
Robert Redford, who achieved stardom in feature films, has moved into the world of television production with the CNN Original Series "Chicagoland."
updated 11:06 PM EST, Thu March 6, 2014
Is your knowledge of Chicago limited to just its clich├ęs and celebrities? There's so much more to the Windy City (for example, don't ever call it that).
updated 7:53 AM EST, Fri March 7, 2014
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposes to close some schools and is under pressure not to do so.
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Wed March 12, 2014
Many studies say it's too late for disadvantaged teens who aren't doing well in school. But two study authors say that's not what they've found.
Chicago is made up of hundreds of neighborhoods and landmarks. Here's a look at some of the city's communities and icons.
updated 7:54 AM EST, Fri March 7, 2014
Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy says the city's gun violence is bad but getting better.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT