While homicides and shootings for the year are sharply down from a bloody 2012, Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy expressed disappointment Monday at the violent Fourth of July weekend but remained confident that police strategies are working.
"I'm absolutely positive that I enjoy the mayor's confidence," McCarthy said in answer to a reporter's question. "He wants to know what's going on, just like I want to know."
Still, the holiday bloodshed — more than 70 people were shot, 11 fatally, from Wednesday afternoon through Sunday evening — illustrated how the department will be tested as summer rolls on.
In defending the strategies, McCarthy pointed to drops of 25 percent in shootings and 29 percent in homicides for the first six months of 2013 compared with a year earlier when violence rose sharply.
But the improvement appears to be slowing. For June, homicides dropped only 6 percent. And through the first week of July, traditionally Chicago's deadliest month, 16 people were killed — the same number as a year earlier, preliminary police statistics show. Despite last week's bloodshed, shootings actually declined, falling to 65 from 76 a year earlier, McCarthy said.
In light of last week's shootings, McCarthy said the department must better enforce curfew violations, particularly in the city's parks where two young boys were shot in separate incidents.
"Having people shot at 12:30 at night in a city park can be prevented by the police if we clear that park," he said in reference to the shooting of 5-year-old Jaden Donald in Cooper Park early Friday.
During a news conference at the Englewood district station on the South Side, McCarthy announced new technology that will enable 911 callers to send photos of drive-by shootings, robberies, hit-and-run traffic crashes, drug transactions and other crimes in progress from their cellphones.
"As a policeman, going to the scene of an incident, the more information they have, the better prepared (they) are to intervene in an incident or catch a criminal," McCarthy said. "If we have a picture of a criminal committing a crime and we're approaching the scene, we might catch the guy two blocks away."
The department cautioned the public, though, not to jeopardize their safety by taking photos with cellphones.
McCarthy also talked about new technology that will allow the department's community-policing program to share information about beat meetings and crime alerts with residents on Twitter. Three police districts — Englewood, Harrison and Near North — will be the first to participate in the pilot project.
The program will eventually be expanded citywide.
In another initiative, residents unable to attend police community meetings will be able to participate online, the department said.
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