Murders down again in 2018 in Chicago, but still top 550

Chicago police say data-driven policing has helped drive down the number of murders in the Windy City, but it still posted the highest number of homicides for an American city in 2018 (AFP Photo/Joshua LOTT)

Chicago (AFP) - Fewer people were killed in Chicago for the second year in a row in 2018, police said Monday, as they seek to stem the tide of violence in what is sometimes called the nation's "murder capital."

The country's third most populous city still accounted for more murders than the combined total in Los Angeles and New York, which both have bigger populations.

More than 550 people were killed in the Midwestern city in 2018 as of December 23, mostly as a result of gun violence fueled by gang and turf rivalries, and the illicit drug trade.

But shootings in the Windy City were down almost a third in 2018 as compared to a peak in 2016, and murders were down by 27 percent from two years ago, when they hit 757, according to police data -- a 20-year record.

City police chief Eddie Johnson said data-driven policing and stronger community partnerships had played a significant role in the reduction of violent crime.

Police used gunshot detection technology and other data to predict where crime might spike in the sprawling city.

Chicago completed a hiring binge of 1,000 new recruits in 2018 to beef up its force.

Under the administration of President Donald Trump, federal law enforcement has sent dozens more prosecutors and agents to Chicago.

In 2018, federal authorities filed the most prosecutions for gun crimes in Chicago's recent history, Johnson said.

Local police and federal agents also seized more than 9,500 illegal guns -- the most in five years -- including nearly 200 assault weapons such as AK-47 and AR-15 rifles.

"While there is still work to be done, the reduction [in weapons] is believed to have contributed to the overall drop in shootings," Johnson said.

While Chicago is America's so-called "murder capital" in absolute terms, Baltimore -- which has a much smaller population -- has a higher per capita murder rate.