McCarthy: 14 homicides in Feb. show beginning of positive trend

McCarthy: 14 homicides in Feb. show beginning of positive trend

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Murders in Chicago hit a 50 year low in February. Fourteen homicides is nothing to celebrate, but the police superintendent told FOX 32 Friday that he believes the total is part of a trend in the right direction.

"In February we had a 50% decrease in murders," Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said. "We had 14 this year compared to about 30 last year, which really, it's good. It's not anything we call success. It's progress."

Of the 14 killed, 11 were shot and three stabbed. It's risky to tout these numbers, but McCarthy better believe his department has momentum on its side.

"We had a real good fourth quarter, which got lost in the fact that everybody was focused on 500 murders," McCarthy said. "When you look at Oct.1 – Feb. 28, we're down 30 murders in this city."

The 14 February killings certainly help the city's average after the bloodiest January in a decade and on the heels of a particularly violent 2012, which saw a 16 percent jump.

Forty-three victims in January - including 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, with everything to live for, gunned down for nothing but inspiring sadness and outrage nationwide - put the top cop on the hot seat.

But McCarthy said he and the mayor have a sound, holistic approach.

"As you know the mayor's done a lot of work creating programs and jobs for kids," McCarthy said. "On the front end, we've been doing a lot of very specific targeted enforcement."

People FOX 32 News spoke to in one of those targeted neighborhoods said they've certainly noticed.

"Police, they're doing their job. I see them," one resident said. "I see them every day. They are patrolling the streets more."

"The policemen have been out here a whole lot more," another resident said. "They've been on the streets a whole lot more."

The dip comes at a time of increasing pressure on Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Supt. Garry McCarthy to end the bloodbath on Chicago streets.

"It's worthy of consideration; we should note it," Art Lurigio, a criminologist at Loyola University, said of the February numbers. "But at the same time, it's really the year we should be paying attention to because statistics fluctuate for a variety of reasons."

Lurigio said those reasons may well include stepped-up police efforts to tackle homicides, but the drop in murders last month might also have to do with the national spotlight aimed at Chicago, following the slaying of Hadiya Pendleton less than a mile from President Barack Obama's Kenwood mansion.

It's possible Obama's presence and the relatively quick arrest and filing of charges in that case gave some would-be killers pause, Lurigio said.

"When was the last time a president of the United States came into a city to talk about the murder rate?" Lurigio said. "When was the last time the death of a young person was given so much media attention?"

In recent days, McCarthy has said he is continually refining crime strategies, which has included shifting 200 police officers from desk jobs to street duty.

As always, McCarthy dismisses theories about cold weather keeping a lid on violence. He said Chicago needs to take the real heat off the streets.

"Changing the gun laws is going to reduce gun violence now," McCarthy said. "We can't cure poverty overnight and we can't cure families overnight. But we can change the gun law, which is going to start curing the homicide rate."

Critics can argue that the superintendent only wants to talk about his job when things are looking up. But he knows if the numbers are high in March, he knows where the blame will fall.

"I think 14 murders is too many, we'll celebrate when we get to zero," McCarthy said. "But by the same token, like I told the troops today, ‘Good month – Let's go do it again."

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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