BY MICHAEL LANSU
Homicide Watch Chicago Editor
Chicago Police reported a 5 percent decrease in murders through the first six months of 2014 compared to the same period last year.
The 171 slayings were a 32 percent decrease from the unusually violent first half of 2012, and more modest 8 percent decrease from the start of 2011, police said.
The Cook County medical examiner’s office, which counts murders differently, reported 180 homicides so far in 2014 compared to 187 in the first six months of 2013. The difference comes from cases detectives ruled self-defense or involuntary manslaughter, police said.
“We are never going to be happy with the five percent,” said Robert Tracy, Chicago Police chief of crime control strategies. “We are never going to be happy until there are zero shootings, zero murders and zero crime.”
While citywide murder totals declined by any count, the communities with the most killings in recent years continued to lead the city in slayings in the first half of 2014.
The large Austin community, which had the most killings between 2011 and 2013, also had the most killings midway through this year with 19, according to data from the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
The most recent murder in Austin happened June 26 when 56-year-old Albert Glover was fatally shot outside his home in the 100 block of North Leamington Avenue.
Only two other communities had double-digit murder totals in the first half of the year: Chicago Lawn and West Garfield Park, according to the medical examiner’s office.
“We looked at these communities, and we’ve put additional resources into these communities,” said Tracy, who noted the city is also providing social services to the most effected areas in addition to standard policing practices.
Tracy also said that while murders have increased in the Chicago Lawn District, shootings have gone down.
Evelyn Diaz, commissioner of the city’s Department of Family and Support Services, are working “hand in hand” with the police department. She also noted the work of community anti-violence groups.
“There are so may different things contributing that we might never be able to see which is driving the results – and we are OK with that,” Diaz said. “We think the approach has to be everybody coming at it from different angles. … There is still work to do because there is still areas where we need to see more gains.”
Despite the continued high murder totals on the West Side, police said the 171 murders are the fewest in the first half of any year since 1963. However, police have changed how killings are counted killings differently throughout the past 50 years.
In a statistical snapshot so far this year, the average murder victim was an 18-year-old man, according to the medical examiner’s office. Thirty-one of the victims were under the age of 18, and 20 were older than 50.
The youngest victim was 3-week-old Rachel Garcia, who was killed March 1 in her home in the 5100 block of South Hyde Park Boulevard. Prosecutors said her father, emergency medical technician Jose Garcia, shook the infant before throwing her in the air about 100 times prior to her death.
The oldest victim was 76-year-old Leannia Hall, who was found strangled March 20 in her home in the 900 block of North Central Park Avenue in the Humboldt Park community. Ronald Winfield, 65, has been charged for her murder.
Hall was one of only 22 female homicide victims, according to the medical examiner’s office. Of the 180 homicides reported by the ME’s office, 149 were shootings. The second leading cause of violent death was stabbings, with 13 reported.
While murders continued to decline, police reported a 6 percent increase in shooting incidents – an incident can include more than one victim – and an 8 percent increase in shooting victims compared to the same period last year.
“We are up against a historical year from last year … It’s how we are trending long term as far as where we are going in Chicago,” Tracy said.
Chicago Police reported 880 shooting incidents and 1,103 shooting victims through the first six months of 2014, an increase from the 833 incidents and 1,018 victims last year.
However, the first six months of 2014 saw fewer shooting incidents and victims than during the same time period in 2011 and 2012.
A map of all the 2014 homicide victims can be found here.
*Calculations for some figures include data from the city, police department and medical examiner’s office.