500 homicides in Chicago in 2012

December 28, 2012 (CHICAGO)

The last time the city has seen that many homicides was in 2008, when 512 people were killed.

While the crime rate in Chicago is down this year, the homicide rate is not. It is up 17 percent, with only a few days left until 2013.

"I'm not scared for myself, but I'm scared for my kids and teenagers, young kids... I'm scared for people getting killed, and it's sad that it's coming to this," said Jarrell Jackson.

The latest homicide happened in Jackson's block Thursday night outside a convenience store in the Austin neighborhood in the 37th Ward of Alderman Emma Mitts

"Crime is definitely still there in the ward, and I fear for myself every day - daily, yes, I do," said Mitts.

Nathaniel T. Jackson, a 40-year-old man with gang ties, was the victim. He has been out on parole since August after serving a prison sentence for robbery.

The Mayor's office said Friday afternoon it was the 500th homicide this year, hundreds more than Los Angeles and well Above New York city's record low homicide number of 415 so far this year.

"If you look at the past year, we got off to a tough start, it was incredibly warm last winter, and the numbers reflected that," said Jody Weis, ABC7 public safety expert and former Chicago police superintendent. "It was an extraordinarily poor start to the year."

Weis says policing strategies to lower the murder rate can differ, but he thinks one part of Chicago's violence problem is judges who are lenient on repeat offenders and gang members.

"I still think that we have to get these guys locked up and put away, and I think we can debate police strategies forever, multiple ones will work," said Weis.

In the first three months of 2012 alone, the city saw the homicide rate jump 60 percent. It then leveled off, but continued to be ahead of the 2011 rate.

Andrew Holmes, a community activist, says the numbers are heartbreaking.

"People ought to quit finger-pointing and monitor your kids no matter how old they are, 21 or 50. You have to keep preaching about keeping your hands off these guns," said Holmes.

Also, the overall crime rate in Chicago is down this year. Superintendent Garry McCarthy says it is because of a new strategy to put more beat cops on the streets.

The mayor's office and the police department were not talking on camera Friday, only giving written statements. Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a written statement saying "Chicago has reached an unfortunate and tragic milestone which not only marks in needless loss of life but serves as a reminder of the damage that illegal guns and conflicts between gangs cause our neighborhoods."

The fraternal order of police was also not commenting on camera Friday, but its spokesperson said it hopes City Hall will keep its promise of adding new police officers. The FOP hopes that 500 officers will be hired by the end of the year, but so far that has not happened.

Superintendent Garry McCarthy issued a statement on Friday as well, saying: "The city has seen its 500th homicide for 2012, a tragic number that is reflective of the gang violence and proliferation of illegal guns that have plagued some of our neighborhoods. Every homicide in Chicago is unacceptable to me and the hard working men and women of the Chicago Police Department, who, this year, achieved a record drop in overall crime throughout our city. CPD has put the right people in the right places to accomplish our long-term goal of reducing crime and ensuring that our streets and our neighborhoods belong to the residents of this city. Since the gang violence reduction strategy was adopted, we have seen drastic reductions in shootings and homicides that spiked early in the year. Shootings, which were at 40% increase in the first quarter, are at 11% year to date. Murders, which were at 66% increase in the first quarter, have been reduced to 15% in the fourth quarter - and although it results in an overall increase, it represents great progress."

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