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Chicago Police: Murders, shootings up 11 percent

In a year that put a national spotlight on Chicago and its handling of police-involved shootings, the city saw a rise in gun violence, according to crime statistics released Friday.

The city recorded 50 more murders in 2015 than in 2014, Interim Chicago Police Supt. John Escalante said.

There were 478 murders in 2015, according to the Sun-Times Homicide Watch tally, which includes all murders, whether it be by assault, guns or other weapons. Police have not yet released their 2015 murder total, although there were 454 murders as of Dec. 20, 2015, according to police data posted online. In 2014, police said there were 407 murders.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office plans to release its official homicide total on Monday.

As hundreds of protesters marched down Michigan Avenue on Thursday to honor gun violence victims, they held up posters that read “442 killed by gun violence” in 2015.

Murders and shootings were both up by 11 percent from 2014, according to Chicago Police statistics. But police stressed that murder victims aged 17 and younger were down by 33 percent and shooting victims aged 17 and younger were down 14 percent.

The bump in gun violence, however, follows a trend in major urban cities across the country, police said in a release about the statistics.

Police are continuing to focus on a small group of people involved in organized crime and gang activity who they say “disproportionally commit a majority of the city’s violent crimes.”

Since January 2015, the police department has confiscated more than 6,908 illegal guns.

Despite the increase in shootings, overall major crimes in Chicago have dropped by more than 37 percent since 2011, police said. That includes homicides, rapes, robberies, burglaries, aggravated assaults, felony thefts, motor vehicle thefts and arsons, police said.

Since last year, overall crime dropped by 6 percent. Police said robberies are down by 32 percent; aggravated battery is down by 20 percent; burglaries are down by 51 percent; theft is down by 19 percent and motor vehicle thefts are down by 48 percent.

Escalante credited good police work for that drop.

The last two months of the year were particularly difficult between the police department and the community, Escalante told reporters, noting the release of the police dashcam video of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald by Officer Jason Van Dyke.

“We have a lot of work to do in some communities in the city of Chicago to rebuild trust,” Escalante said at a press conference Thursday outside the 18th District Police station.

Police have enacted a series of reforms to shift policy, recognizing that trust in the police department is shaky. On Dec. 30, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Escalante announced revisions around “de-escalation tactics” to reduce the intensity of a conflict as early as possible. This year, police will undergo training to help officers develop and display skills that allow them to resolve confrontations “using the least force necessary,” police said in a release.

The city is also adding 700 more Tasers. By June 1, every officer will be equipped with a Taser. Chicago Police are also expanding the use of body-work cameras to a total of seven police districts.

In the first reported homicide of 2016, Deandre Holiday was shot to death early New Year’s Day in the Grand Boulevard neighborhood on the South Side.

Holiday, 24, got into a fight with someone in the 4600 block of South St. Lawrence and that person pulled out a gun and fired shots at 2:20 a.m., according to Chicago Police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office. The shooter then ran away.

Holiday, of the 5100 block of South Indiana, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police and the medical examiner’s office.

Contributing: Daniel Brown