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redeyechicago.com

Minority of One blog

Chicago's progress on murder

Steve Chapman

4:33 PM CST, March 4, 2013

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Among some Americans, particularly those who detest President Obama or Mayor Emanuel, it's accepted wisdom that Chicago is a daily orgy of bloodshed and murder. By any reasonable standard, the level of violent crime in the city is unacceptably, tragically high. But let's not ignore the emphatic signals of genuine progress.

The Sun-Times deserves credit for highlighting those today, with a graph showing that over the past five months, the pace of killing has slackened noticeably. Compared to the same five months a year ago, the number of murders has dropped from 186 to 156 -- a decline of 16 percent. The 14 in February were the lowest monthly total in 56 years. Yes: 56 years.

Maybe it's because of the new tactics adopted by Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, which involve paying overtime to concentrate police in particularly violent areas. Maybe it's just a random fluke. Or maybe last year's increase was the aberration.

But it's worth remembering that a few weeks ago, alarmists were trumpeting that the year had begun with a scary rash of homicides. The lesson is not to make too much of weekly or even monthly totals. The long run is the important measure.

By that benchmark, Chicago has made great improvement. The number of murders last year was down nearly half from 1994. The drop is no grounds for complacency. But where there's progress, there's hope.