Chicago has long been touted as a city with some of the nation’s heaviest gun violence, yet many have been left to question how a city which ranks eighth in gun laws could have such a high crime rate.
“We’re sitting between Wisconsin and Indiana, who have very lax gun laws, so the illegal flow of guns coming into this city is a lot larger than theirs,” said district commander Kenneth Johnson, comparing Chicago to large cities such as New York and Los Angeles.
“That just means we have more illegal guns on our streets,” he said, suggesting Chicago itself has been placed at a disadvantage because of it.
But some like Craig Futterman, a law professor at the University of Chicago, suggest the problem is not necessarily an argument between lax gun laws or stricter ones, but with neighborhoods — from lack of trust in authorities to economic failings — that add to the data.
“The biggest thing that they can do now would be improving accountability, transparency and honesty and do the kinds of things necessary to build trust,” he said, admitting that authorities can’t solve every problem faced by Chicago residents.
“The biggest things that I’ve seen in my work that drive violence in Chicago are the absence of hope, opportunity, jobs and the lack of police accountability,” Futterman said. “Jobs, hope and opportunity are not within the control of the police department.”
Though America’s third-largest city holds one of it’s highest rates of gun violence than almost any other year the past decade, Chicago police announced Friday that it experienced a 14 percent drop from the “exceptionally bloody” year of 2016, according to CNN.
Eddie Johnson, the Chicago Police Department Superintendent, added that his officers know there is more work to be done, suggesting that numerous strategies and staffing investments are continuing to reduce violence many neighborhoods experience.
According to CNN, Chicago’s homicide rate for 2017 so far totaled 609, a 14 percent reduction from this time last year, which saw its homicides reaching 710. The year 2016, the article stated, closed with a total of 771 homicides.
Johnson continued to shine a light on the statistics that suggested improved measures for curbing crime in the city, with 703 fewer shootings reported to police — a 21 percent decline — and 798 fewer shooting victims altogether, which is a 20 percent decline from this point last year.
Though this year’s homicides total far above the annual tallies taken in the past decade, Johnson insists that progress is being made, suggesting that certain investments have been helping police tackle the issue of a high crime rate this year, including the implementation of strategic decision support centers.
“These centers include predictive crime software that helps district leadership make deployment decisions,” states the Chicago Police Department website, citing neighborhoods that have struggled with continued violence.
Other measures for safety include, “additional cameras, gunshot detection systems, and mobile phones to officers in the field who receive real-time notifications and intelligence data at their fingertips.”
The centers are said to use “predictive crime software” in order for a more effective deployment of officers to the areas that need them the most.
“Officers who used to patrol randomly are now more focused on where to be,” said Kim Smith, a manager for Crime Lab research. “Being in the right place at the right time is crucial, especially somewhere like Chicago, where there are ever-changing gang conflicts.”
Though Smith admits that there is uncertainty as to whether the support centers are the reason for crime reduction, she — along with many others — is hopeful about the new program being used to counteract the city’s violent reputation and set them on a new path.
“I want the community … to see us in a new light,” Kenneth Johnson said. “We’ve been on the path for the past year of making sure the community knows us, that they trust us and believe in us.”
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