Sixty-two slayings in July, police source says
Violent crime continued to rise in Chicago after a deadly July in which 62 people were killed, according to unofficial numbers provided by a police source.
For the first seven months of 2008, murders rose by 18 percent over the same period in 2007 and by 9 percent for the same period in 2006. According to internal police data, 291 people were killed from January through July, up from 246 in 2007 and 266 in 2006.
In May and June, the murder rate hovered at a 13 percent increase for the year after a spike in homicides in the spring. July furthered the uptick with 19 more murders than a year earlier. Still, that July tally fell three below 2006 levels when there were 65 murders.
The worsening murder numbers come a month after Police Supt. Jody Weis, in his fifth month in office, came under fire from aldermen for the rise in crime. The catalyst for some of the criticism was a fatal shooting near the Taste of Chicago during the popular downtown event.
Weis cautioned then that the 13 percent increase would still keep Chicago within range of historical lows in the last four years. But if trends from the first seven months continue the rest of the year, Chicago would finish with more than 500 murders for the first time since 2003. That year, Chicago had more than 600 murders.
Aggravated batteries with a firearm, another marker of increased violence, also continued to climb, to 1,153 incidents in the first seven months, up 245 from the same period a year earlier, according to statistics provided by the source.
Weis last month met with aldermen and Mayor Richard Daley to talk about his strategies for fighting violence at a time that arrests were down.
Weis promised more officers on the street instead of desk duty and a more aggressive Targeted Response Unit as a show of force in high crime areas. Weis has also met with his rank-and-file, urging police officers, many of whom complain of a lack of manpower and low morale, to be more aggressive this summer.
Monique Bond, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Police Department, said the latest numbers were only preliminary. But some of the increase could be due to gang fights over turf, she said. The majority of homicides in Chicago are gang-related with high percentages of offenders and victims having criminal histories, Bond said.
"The department's been focusing on targeting gang hierarchies, which have been dismantled over an extended period of time," she said. "[That's] causing gangs to now operate in smaller crews that compete against each other for narcotic turf, which leads to deadly violence."
Bond said the department is working on developing gang-fighting strategies to try to dismantle the smaller, younger and more fractionalized gangs.
"Law enforcement is having to adapt to that and looking at different kinds of ways that are outside the traditional ways that we've been using to attack gang violence," she said.