Intelligence Report: Data helps explain city's high murder rate

June 6, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Murders are up so far this year in 24 Chicago neighborhoods. The increases have resulted in 216 people killed compared to 158 on this day last year.

Typical was the Memorial Day weekend, when all ten city murders were south of Roosevelt.

In May 2011 the I-Team spent a series of overnights in Chicago's most dangerous neighborhoods. A year later, those South and West Side neighborhoods are among the ones where murders have increased.

"When I was a kid in New York the biggest problems were, guess what? Gangs, guns and narcotics," said Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy. "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

The statistics support that. Gangs, guns and drugs are the three major components of Chicago's multiplying murders, according to University of Chicago's crime lab director, who co-chaired Mayor Rahm Emanuel's public safety transition team.

"Over 80 percent of Chicago's homicides are gun related also 80 percent of Chicago homicides occur outdoors or in public places so really the sort of proximate cause of the violence we see in Chicago, whether the uptick this year or previous years really is the illegal carrying of firearms in public places that lead to this," said Roseanna Ander.

According to police data, Chicago murders in which victims were shot are at a 20-year high as gang leaders find it easier get their hands on illegal handguns, and then order underlings to do the dirty work.

"You have younger underlings taking orders from someone at the top of their food chain and they're either getting killed or going to prison for a very long time while the leader ends up getting off scot free," said CPD organized crime chief Nick Roti.

Nearly 90 percent of all murder offenders have a criminal history and so do the majority of Chicago murder victims.

"It's difficult to watch gang member after gang member, mostly young minority men, convicted, put in prison again and again, while the leaders of the gangs continue to escape arrest and prosecution," said Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.

Last year in Chicago, seven of every ten murder victims were black, as were seven of every ten shooters. And most on both sides of the violence equation were young, from 17 to 25 years old.

Perhaps most troubling to law enforcement: a growing trend toward deadly violence. Gangbangers are shooting to kill.

"The shootings this year seem to be more lethal," Anders said. "That the shootings aren't up as dramatically as the homicides is also consistent with a very, very troubling trend that we are seeing nationally of more incidents against officers, shootings where offenders are willing to engage an officer and more attacks on officers."

"Crime reduction is a process," McCarthy said. "It's not something we say 'boom' we're done, it's over."

But there was immediate relief during the recent NATO summit.

As police flooded protest zones, the department also staffed districts citywide with 15 percent more officers than normal.

The result, according to police data we've obtained Wednesday night, on those four days of the NATO summit, murders were down 20 percent citywide over a year ago and shootings were down 26 percent.

If more police presence is one answer, authorities say a street gang racketeering law, or Rico, is another.

Legislation headed to the governor's desk would allow police and prosecutors to charge gang leaders with violent crimes, even if they haven't pulled the trigger, just as dozens of mob bosses have been put away under federal racketeering laws.

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