By Tracy Swartz, @tracyswartz
5:53 PM CST, January 7, 2014
Buoyed by a less violent spring, Chicago posted a nearly 17 percent decrease in homicides in 2013 compared with 2012, a RedEye analysis of preliminary police data found.
Chicago logged 435 homicides last year, compared with 521 killings in 2012, RedEye determined. That was the first time the city had topped 500 homicides since 2008—a statistic that made national headlines.
Chicago police, on the other hand, counted 415 homicides in 2013, a 17 percent decrease from the 503 killings the department recorded in 2012, based on state and federal reporting guidelines. Police say the 2013 toll is the lowest homicide tally since 1965. The difference in the numbers is due to the fact that RedEye counts homicides differently.
RedEye includes all Chicago killings labeled homicides by the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office, except for police-involved fatal shootings. Chicago police officials do not include homicides they deem justifiable, such as those in self-defense, nor do they include police-involved fatal shootings.
There were 451 homicides in Chicago in 2011, according to RedEye data.
Chicago police credit the turnaround to their use of intelligence to prevent retaliatory shootings and their work with communities. The police also spent nearly $100 million in overtime pay, triple the 2013 budget plan, the Tribune reported.
"While we are experiencing historic lows for crime and violence in Chicago, one victim is too many. We know there's more work to be done," police spokesman Adam Collins told RedEye.
Some communities saw significant declines last year. Chicago Lawn recorded nine homicides, down from 22 killings in 2012.
Woodlawn logged seven homicides, down from 21 in 2012. The South Side community area saw one of the most high-profile homicides of the year in March when 6-month-old Jonylah Watkins was shot to death in the 6500 block of South Maryland Avenue.
There were 87 fewer men, 82 fewer gunshot fatalities and 49 fewer 20- to 29-year-olds killed last year compared with the previous year.
Colder temperatures, which have been cited as a possible link to homicide decreases, may have helped the spring decline.
But it was not good news in all areas. Women comprised a greater share of homicide victims—about 11.5 percent last year—than in 2012, about 9.5 percent. Fatal stabbings comprised a greater share of causes of death—nearly 9 percent—in 2013 than in 2012 (7 percent).
Meanwhile, South Shore saw 30 homicides last year, up from 20 killings in 2012. The community area, where first lady Michelle Obama grew up, saw the city's only triple homicide this year.
Still, Teyonda Wertz, executive director of the South Shore Chamber, is hopeful for the future of the neighborhood, thanks to foot patrols police deployed last fall. "The outpost has been very, very helpful because the visibility is needed," Wertz said.
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