Chicago murders up 75 percent in January 2016

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Chicago police said January 2016 was the deadliest start to a year in 16 years. (WLS)

The Chicago Police Department released the city's latest crime numbers overnight. January 2016 was the deadliest start to a year in 16 years.

There were 292 shooting victims in January 2016, compared to the first month of 2015, when there were 136. That's more than double. There were 51 murders in the first month of 2016, compared to 29 in January 2015. That's a 75 percent increase.

Interim Supt. John Escalante calls the stats unacceptable and unexplainable.

"We can't put a finger on it, I mean, believe me, we talk about it every day," Escalante said.

Escalante says the majority of the violence is gang-related, with 50 percent of the murder victims identified as known gang members. He says shootings are often a result of personal petty disputes that are fueled by social media.

To address the spike, the department is moving more than 350 officers and over 30 sergeants from foot patrol to vehicles. Weather permitting, bike patrols will be used as well.

"Right now, we think we can better utilize them by making more visible and getting them back in cars," Escalante said.

While shootings and murders are up, street stops were down by 80 percent in January. CPD says much of that has to do with a new two-page form officers must fill out when making a stop. The old form was the size of an index card, and officers are in the process of being trained on the new form.

"We are pretty confident once getting up to speed on training these numbers activity will pick up again," Escalante said.

Escalante does not believe the drop in stops is tied to the increase in murders, but some cops disagree. The Fraternal Order of Police is convinced less aggressive policing in today's current environment has an impact on crime.

"The ability to do your job underneath a fish bowl of what happened right now is incredibly detrimental to policing," said Dean Angelo, president, Fraternal Order of Police.

Escalante says officers have expressed to him concerns about doing their jobs underneath the fishbowl. He said many of them are worried about becoming the next "viral video." Escalante said he assured them that most officers have nothing to worry about because they are doing their jobs right.
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