The Chicago Police Department is celebrating after new numbers were released showing a dramatic drop in shootings, police-involved shootings, and murders, compared to the same period last year.
Chicago is often used as a model for “dangerous” cities, and for good reason. The city suffers waves of violence throughout the summer months that quickly make headlines; in some cases, 60 or more shooting victims are reported to police in a single weekend.
At one point, President Donald Trump even considered sending in the National Guard to help Chicago control violence in high-crime areas on the city’s south and west sides. The mayor refused, saying the city has been working on crime abatement plans and was simply waiting to see results.
Now, CBS’ Chicago affiliate reports that CPD’s numbers show “murders are down 30 percent through the end of March, compared to the first three months of 2018. There were 76 murders in the first quarter of 2019, and 109 during the same period of 2018.”
Shootings are down overall. The number of people shot in Chicago dropped 17%, even though the first quarter of 2019 didn’t see any particularly harsh winter weather outside of a three-day cold snap connected to the “polar vortex.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean that the number of shootings in Chicago was particularly low, either this year or last. In just the first three months of 2019, there have been 348 “shooting incidents” with 412 victims (most of whom survived). Last year, during the same period, there were 421 shootings and more than 500 victims.
“That’s a significant reduction. It’s not where we want to be, of course, but it is showing signs of progress,” CPD Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told media, adding that robberies, car thefts, and other violent crimes are also on the decline, and have been for the last three years.
Johnson credited an innovating policing strategy he calls “strategic decision support centers,” which are high tech crime deterrent systems installed in a handful of precincts deemed to be among the worst for violent crime.
That technology includes “ShotSpotter,” an artificial intelligence that detects gunfire and alerts police to potential violent crime faster than if a victim were forced to dial 911 or wait for a bystander. The data provided by ShotSpotter can also be used to track crime trends, anticipate areas of high gun violence, and help law enforcement better strategize on how to deploy personnel most efficiently.
Chicago has been rolling out its “ShotSpotter” program over the course of the last two years. Johnson claims that ShotSpotter, along with other technological developments in CPD’s high-tech crime centers, has helped decrease gun violence by 50% since 2017.
The challenge for police will be maintaining the decrease through the summer months. Once weather becomes warm in Chicago, violence increases dramatically and often spreads from enclaves on the city’s south and west sides, where gang violence flourishes, to tourist areas near downtown and on the city’s north side, near the Magnificent Mile, Wrigley Field and other attractions.
But Chicagoan-on-Chicagoan gun violence is not the only statistic that has dropped, either. Police involved shootings are down by 70% since 2011 according to a separate study conducted by Chicago crime reporters.
CWB Chicago reports that “[t]he number of police-involved shootings in the city has fallen nearly every year for the past seven years, according to Chicago Police Department data.” In the first quarter of 2019, police were the shooters in only two of Chicago’s 400-plus gun-related incidents.
The city says that decline is due in part to developments in police training and a focus on arming cops with less-lethal weapons and body cameras.