Chicago murders rose to 468 in 2015, up from 416 the previous year. And while shootings increased, too, Chicago Police Department officials say overall crime decreased by 6 percent. Police also say since 2011, overall crime has fallen by more than 37 percent.
But Harold Pollack, co-director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, cautions against too much emphasis on end-of-the-year numbers as some sort of “magic” indicator.
“I don’t say that as a way to try to evade accountability. I just think the accountability should come in what we are actually doing and what are the things we have to change, as opposed to what did the number turn out to be,” Pollack said.
He said it’s important to focus on the fundamental issues underlying violence, citing the need to control the illegal gun market and supply jobs for youth.
“If we focus on those, year to year we may go up or down depending on what’s going on,” Pollack said, “but over time I’m convinced that we can bring the [murder] rate down.”
The crime statistics released on New Year’s Day come during a challenging time for the city. Public trust is eroded in the police department, and there’s been a pall over the holiday season with the release of the Laquan McDonald video, which shows a white police officer pumping 16 bullets into a black teenager.
Protests pushing for police reform are almost a daily occurrence. Embattled Mayor Rahm Emanuel has fired the police superintendent and the head of the Independent Police Review Authority. The mayor also appointed a police task force. The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting an investigation into the police department. Earlier this week the mayor cut short a Cuba family vacation to deal with another police-involved shooting last weekend that left two black West Siders dead: Quintonio LeGrier, 19, and Bettie Jones, 55, who police say they shot by mistake.
Among the police reforms announced this week: doubling the number of Tasers for officers who respond to calls for service, expanded use of body cameras and de-escalation tactics.