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Chicago Murder Rate Drops, City Launches Initiative Targeting Most Violent Districts

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Less than a week after Chicago's first murder- and shooting-free day in nearly a year, the city's mayor and police superintendent announced a violence-reduction initiative that targets two districts they say host a disproportionate amount of violent crimes.

Although Chicago's murder rate is the lowest it's been in more than 40 years, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy says homicides were up about 25 percent during the last four months of 2011, particularly in Englewood and Harrison police districts, two of the city's most dangerous areas when examining violent crime rates, according to ABC Chicago.

In 2011, Englewood and Harrison, Chicago's 7th and 11th Districts respectively, accounted for nearly 25 percent of the murder and shooting incidents citywide, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a release. During the first two weeks of January 2012, roughly one in three murders and shootings happened in one of those two neighborhoods.

"If you looked at a football team, it might be like having a 12-4 season," former Superintendent Jody Weis told ABC. "The problem is, if those four losses are at the end of the season, are you really satisfied with how the team is playing? And I liken that to the last four months of the year, September, October, November, December."

The initiative will expand on the redeployment of more than 100 police officers to Englewood and Harrison in May, and is supported by resources from the Bureau of Organized Crime and Bureau of Detectives. The focus is on reducing narcotics and other vice violations through increased foot patrols, street and vehicle stops and more aggressive enforcement of existing warrants, based on the principle that more minor offenses "encourage violent and criminal activity," according to a release from the mayor's office.

Emanuel's office says the initiative will rely on police cooperation with community groups like CeaseFire that have led active anti-violence outreach programs in the most hard-hit neighborhoods.

The new strategy is somewhat at odds with statements made by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle calling for police to lay off nonviolent, low-level drug possession arrests across the cash-strapped county. McCarthy has expressed support for similar shifts in police focus in the past.

But in a statement released by the Mayor's office, McCarthy strongly supported the new agenda.

"Crime knows no boundaries," McCarthy said. "Our goal is to effect a significant impact Citywide by focusing on the areas most susceptible to violent activity in our communities."

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