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Number of gang shootings in Chicago taking steep dive: McCarthy

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry F. McCarthy announcing federal criminal charges against alleged leaders Chicago gang for engaging series violent crimes

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry F. McCarthy announcing federal criminal charges against alleged leaders of a Chicago gang for engaging in a series of violent crimes, on Thursday, September 26, 2013. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 20, 2014 6:28AM

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Tuesday that the city’s strategy to reduce gang violence is “clearly taking root,” pointing to a major decrease in gang-related shootings.

Those types of shootings have fallen sharply over the early months of this year compared with the same period of 2013, according to the department.

They now represent less than half of the total number of shooting incidents in Chicago.

“It’s not an accident, it’s not the weather — it’s a trend,” the superintendent said in an interview.

McCarthy said police officials from other cities have been coming to Chicago to learn about his gang violence reduction strategy launched about a year ago.

Baltimore’s top cop came to Chicago for a look and sent his commanders to observe one of McCarthy’s CompStat meetings — in which police supervisors are quizzed about what they’re doing to combat crime problems in their jurisdictions.

“Baltimore is putting a lot of effort into replicating what we’re doing,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy’s strategy relies on “gang audits” that provide updated information on Chicago’s 600 gang factions and their members. After a shooting, commanders in the city’s 22 police districts receive intelligence reports on the gangs involved and mobilize their officers to prevent retaliation.

“Almost our entire focus is stopping the next shooting,” McCarthy said.

Part of the strategy involves “custom notifications” in which commanders knock on the doors of people at risk of getting involved in a shooting and warn them not to pick up a gun. In turn, they’re given options about job training and other social services.

“There were shootings over the weekend in the 4th District,” McCarthy explained. “Today, we are working on who we will meet tomorrow to stop this hot conflict.”

This year through March 14, there were 188 “shooting incidents” in Chicago, 90 of which were gang-related — or less than half, McCarthy said.

Over the same period of 2013, there were 267 shooting incidents and 163 were gang-related — more than 60 percent of them.

Over the same period of 2012, there were 343 shooting incidents, 223 of which were gang-related — more than 65 percent of them.

And over the same period of 2011, there were 264 shooting incidents, 147 of which were gang-related — about 56 percent of them.

The department counts “shooting incidents” as fatal and nonfatal shootings involving someone getting shot — and each incident can include one or more victims, according to a police spokesman.

McCarthy said robberies are the second biggest category of shootings besides gang-related ones. His commanders have been focusing on preventing holdups to reduce those shootings, he said. Police do so by focusing on patterns of armed robberies.

Other types of shootings, such as those stemming from random disputes, are more difficult to prevent, the superintendent said.

“In Englewood, some guys tried to barge into a party [Saturday] . . . and someone fired a shot through a window and killed a guy. How do you prevent that?” McCarthy said Tuesday.

The superintendent emphasized that he changed the way the department counts shootings, which he says is giving a more accurate picture of what is happening.

All shootings are now classified as “shooting incidents.”

In the past, shootings were classified as aggravated batteries with a firearm unless they involved another crime like robbery or murder, which is how they would then be classified.

“You have to measure what’s going on to prevent the next one,” McCarthy said, adding: “By focusing on reducing gunshots, we can reduce the murders.”

According to the department, there were fewer murders so far this year than over the same periods of 2013 and 2012.

There were 49 murders this year through March 13 compared with 58 over the same period of 2013 — a nearly 16 percent decrease.

It’s a stark change from early 2012, when murders skyrocketed, prompting headlines across the country branding Chicago the murder capital of the United States. There were 80 murders that year through March 13 — 17 more murders than over the same period of 2011.

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