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Editorial: Chicago hits a murder milestone

Chicago Police Cmdr. Garry McCarthy  |  Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

Chicago Police Cmdr. Garry McCarthy | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 1, 2012 6:20AM

When yet another homicide victim lies in the morgue — Carlos Alexander, 33, a father of four shot and killed while walking home with a cup of coffee Monday morning — it might not seem like the best time to express even mild support for the Chicago Police Department’s crime-fighting strategies.

But short of hiring hundreds more police officers, which the city has no money to do, we haven’t heard a better alternative to what Police Supt. Garry McCarthy already is doing.

He has put more cops on the beat by disbanding specialized units. He is holding commanders accountable at monthly CompStat meetings. His officers are shutting down open-air drug markets. He is working with other city agencies to saturate the most violent neighborhoods with city and social services. He is conducting “gang audits” to pinpoint where shootings might occur next. He has shaken up the city’s community-policing program, CAPS, running it through the district commanders.

That latest body in the morgue represents the 436th homicide in Chicago so far this year, one more than the number of homicides in all of last year. But McCarthy is right that this year’s homicide tally, up 23 percent from the same period last year, is largely explained by a frightening spike in killings — 66 percent — in just the first three months of the year. Since then, homicide rates have trended down slightly, and overall crime is down 9 percent.

Statistical progress is cold comfort, of course, to Chicagoans who live in fear behind locked doors. As Ald. Latasha Thomas (17th) told McCarthy last week, “When you get on TV and say in the month of July and August, shootings decreased or whatever you say, we don’t feel that.”

It is cold comfort, as well, to be reminded that Chicago has more police officers per capita than New York and Los Angeles. Chicago also has a much higher homicide rate.

But a lament — we need more cops — is not a plan. And nobody has put forth a realistic plan to pay for more officers.

If nothing is in done in Springfield now to avert a looming unfunded pension crisis, in a year or two, Chicago may be lucky to maintain the size of its police force, let alone expand it.

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