Report: Homicides in Chicago down in 2009

December 30, 2009 (CHICAGO) While that's encouraging, Chicago police and the families of victims say more work needs to be done.

The numbers are down from a year ago, but 2008 was an exception to the downward trend in violent crime for much of this decade. Police and community leaders nevertheless say it is encouraging, but they are a long way from being satisfied.

Chicago police attribute the drop in murders, armed robberies and sexual assaults to a number of factors, including a reorganization of city gang teams, an increase in search warrants and removing more guns from the street.

"We hesitate to attribute it to one thing. It is probably a compilation of a number of efforts," said Chief of Patrol Mike McCotter, Chicago Police Department.

On April 4th, 2006, Terrell Bosley, 18, a talented musician was shot and killed by someone driving by his church parking lot. The crime remains unsolved. His mother, Pamela Bosley, has been active in speaking out against youth violence.

"When you say the crime rate is zero, and then you know that will make us feel like we're doing something," Bosley said.

Annette Holt lost her son Blair to a gunman on a CTA bus as he was on his way home from school. She also has been active and believes the drop in homicides this year makes little difference.

"They're just numbers. I mean I don't really believe there is that much of a drop in crime because every time I turn on the TV or open a newspaper there is another child being shot," Holt said.

Father Michael Pfleger hosted a round table radio discussion on youth violence. He has led the charge bringing attention to the murders of Chicago Public School students.

"Let's not get comfortable, because kids are being shot every day. People are dying ever day. That's not acceptable in this city," Pfleger said.

The Chicago crime statistics show an eleven percent drop in homicides in 2009 so far, but they also reflect a national trend. Violent crime in other major cities like New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta and San Francisco is also way down.

Reverend Autry Phillips with CeaseFire believes strategies enacted by Superintendent Jody Weis have made a difference, but there's no time to stop and celebrate.

"We need to look at what happened to cause that drop, and let's pledge to duplicate that for next year," Phillips said.

Police are vowing to continue their efforts, but not necessarily by doing the same things. "We are busy right now developing new strategies because criminals on the street adapt to our strategies just like we adapt to theirs," McCotter said.

Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis says he is not surprised by the drop in violent crime. He took over the department in early 2008, and he says that year was a time of transition as he put new policies in place. This year, he says, those policies began to show results.

Some experts say before getting too excited over this year's homicide drop, it is important to check how homicides are classified.

In Chicago, justifiable homicides are not counted. A victim who dies from injuries sustained from an aggravated battery in a previous year is counted in the year that person dies. Unlike Chicago, in New York City, homicides by negligence are not counted.

There were 453 homicides in the city in 2009 as of Monday, and non-deadly shootings in Chicago are also down in 2009 by 6 percent compared to last year.

As for overall crime, the Chicago Police Department says it's down 9.2 percent. Criminal sexual assault is down nearly 9 percent.

Robberies are down 4.8 percent. Burglary is up slightly by 0.4 percent.

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