Chicago’s murder numbers are back to roughly where they were before a shooting surge that began more than three years ago.
The city had 44 murders during January and February, according to the Police Department. At this point last year, that number was 80. In both of the previous years: around 100.
After a decade without much change in homicide numbers, they spiked up in January 2016 and remained elevated for more than a year and a half.
Criminologists have no consensus on what sparked the violence, which was concentrated in the poorest neighborhoods of the city’s West and South sides.
WBEZ found evidence suggesting the shooting surge may have had links to a crisis in police morale and legitimacy after the city’s November 2015 release of a video showing the fatal shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald by Police Officer Jason Van Dyke.
A Police Department statement attributes this year’s drop in violence to increased officer hiring, new police technology and department efforts to build neighborhood partnerships.
“Crime data for February provides strong evidence that the Chicago Police Department is on the right path towards improving public safety,” Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a written statement released by the department.
Officers this year have seized more than 1,600 illegal guns, 6 percent more than the first two months of 2018, according to CPD.
Robberies, burglaries and motor vehicle thefts are near 20-year lows, the department says.
Chip Mitchell reports out of WBEZ’s West Side studio about policing. Follow him at @ChipMitchell1.