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Chicago’s soaring murder count slows in April

Sun-Times file photo

Homicides in April increased only 3 percent compared with April of last year, an anything-but-perfect but still welcome stat considering the sharp uptick in murders recorded in the first three months of 2016, including a 126 percent jump in February.

There were 36 murders this April, one more murder than in April 2015, the Chicago Police Department said Sunday.

Homicides ballooned in January and have tapered since. The progress was highlighted by the police department, but this year’s murder stats still outpace last year’s numbers.

A statement released Sunday by the Chicago Police Department read: “In April the city’s homicide rate continued an important downward trend compared to the first few months of the year.”

In the first four months of 2016, there have been 175 murders, according to the police department: 51 in January, 43 in February, 45 in March and 36 in April.

The murder count kept by the police department does not include fatal police shootings and homicides ruled self-defense.

The majority of the city’s violence is driven by less than 1 percent of its population, mostly gang members with illegal guns, the police department said.

“While the rate of homicides is slowing down compared to the beginning of the year, there is a great deal of work that lies ahead,” Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said in a news release. “As the police department continues to rebuild trust and partnerships with the community, our ability to reduce violence will become even stronger.”

After the first two months of the year, the city’s murder count seemed to be soaring out of control with nearly 100 killed. At that point, the tally represented the largest number of homicide victims in Chicago since 1999 and nearly double the body count over the same period of 2015 when 48 people were killed.

The spike in homicides coincided with a huge rise in the number of shooting victims this year. Over the first two months of 2016, 479 people were shot, compared with 207 in 2015.

In addition, 319 people were shot in March. In April, 311 people were shot.

Overall, 1,109 people were shot in the first four months of 2016, according to Chicago police statistics.

At the same time, the number of street stops by police plummeted from 111,831 in January and February 2015 to just 14,648 in the same period this year.

On Sunday, police said street stops, as well as gun recoveries and murder arrests, are on the rise.

Officers have told the Chicago Sun-Times they’ve been afraid to make investigatory stops because of greater scrutiny over potential misconduct after the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video last November. The U.S. Justice Department and American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois have been scrutinizing police practices.