Updated: August 3, 2013 6:24AM
Several high-profile killings have put Chicago violence in the national spotlight this year, but murders and shootings were actually down in the city for the first six months of 2013 compared with the same periods of the previous two years, police said Monday.
The January killing of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old shot to death a week after performing at events at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, cemented Chicago’s national reputation as a killing field. The HBO show “Vice” even described the city as “Chiraq” in a recent episode, pointing to a “frightening uptick in shootings and gang violence.”
But the police department countered Monday that murders were down 29 percent this year through the end of June compared with the same period of 2012 — and were down 2 percent compared with the first six months of 2011.
Chicago’s six-month murder tally hasn’t been lower since 1965, according to the department.
Shootings — fatal and non-fatal — were down 25 percent compared with 2012 and 18 percent down compared with 2011, according to the police.
Overall crime was down 14 percent compared with the first six months of 2012 and 23 percent down compared with the same period of 2011.
“For the progress we’re seeing, with stiffer penalties for gun crimes we could be doing an awful lot better,” Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said at a news conference at the West Side’s Ogden District, which posted the largest decrease in murders in the city this year.
McCarthy, standing before a display of seized guns, renewed his call for a state law creating a mandatory minimum three-year sentence for felony illegal gun possession and a “truth in sentencing” provision requiring defendants to serve 85 percent of their prison terms.
He said almost 100 people in Chicago would have been in prison this year under such a law — but instead were on the street to become either shooters or victims.
In one such case, an 18-year-old allegedly shot a 5-year-old boy and his mother to death Friday, McCarthy said. In November, the suspect had been charged with felony gun possession but he was free because he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in March, the superintendent said.
According to the police department, there were 184 murders this year through the end of June, compared with 260 in 2012 and 188 in 2011.
Last year, murders spiked during a historically warm spring — accounting for most of the 2012 increase in killings compared with 2011.
McCarthy, who took office in 2011, noted that his gang violence reduction strategy is fully in place now. He said the police department is better than last year at gathering intelligence about potential retaliation following gang-related shootings.
“We can get in front of retaliatory shootings when one shooting occurs,” he said. “Now it’s not the example that we saw last year when time and time again we could have four and six shootings going back and forth between two groups retaliating against each other. [But] once in a while, they’ll slip through and we’ll have one five minutes later.”
McCarthy also addressed plans by the controversial New York civil-rights activist, the Rev. Al Sharpton, to live in Chicago this summer to work with church and community leaders on reducing the violence here. In the 1980s and 1990s, Sharpton was at the forefront of criticizing the New York Police Department for alleged abuses.
“I know Rev. Sharpton, I worked with him in New York,” said McCarthy, a former top NYPD official.
“If he can get some sort of national debate or statewide debate that’s really going to spark these things that we’re talking about [involving gun possession laws], I welcome the help.”
“I welcome anybody who wants to come and help us,” McCarthy said, adding, “When I speak to Rev. Sharpton, I’m going to talk to him about the state gun laws.”