- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 29, 2016

The historic surge in violent crime seen across the Windy City in 2016 unfolded as the Chicago Police Department drastically reduced the number of times its officers stopped and arrested civilians, new data reveal.

As 2016 comes to a close, Chicago has reportedly witnessed more than 700 murders during the course of the calendar year — the highest number of homicides on record since the turn of the century.

As violent crime soared, however, police activity did quite the opposite, CBS News reported this week. Data obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests filed on behalf of its “60 Minutes” television program indicates officers across all of Chicago’s 25 police districts reported conducting fewer stops and arrests this year, the network said Thursday.

Specifically, CPD officers have stopped and questioned 80 percent fewer people since 2015 while the number of arrests fell by a third, according to its investigation.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported separately this week that arrests went down 28 percent this year compared to 2015 — the lowest since 2001, and half of the number reported during all of 2010.

Despite accompanying the uptick in violent crime, “60 Minutes” producer Andrew Bast said there wasn’t necessary a correlation between police activity and homicides.

“We know there’s almost never one simple explanation for any set of data points,” Mr. Bast said. “So we were very cautious to not draw grand conclusions, but at the same time we wanted to find out what relationship this data had to the spike in violence.”

Regardless of the reasoning, Chicagoans who discussed the data condemned the city’s rekindled reputation for violence.

“We should be embarrassed as a city, every single one of us, that we’ve allowed this city to become the poster boy of violence in America,” Rev. Michael Pfleger, an activist and pastor of a Catholic church there, told the New York Times this week. “Are we just going to shake our heads and say, ‘What a terrible year in Chicago?’”

Statisticians say the 700-plus homicides reported throughout Chicago during 2016 amounts to more murder witnessed this year by New York City and Los Angeles combined.

According to a spokesman for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, “there is no single solution” to reversing the trend.

“The increase in violence, largely driven by gun crimes in the South and West Sides of the city, is unacceptable, and we’re working day and night to address it,” spokesman Matt McGrath told the New York Times.

“In September, the mayor announced his plan to hire nearly 1,000 new police officers as part of a comprehensive law enforcement reform package designed to restore community trust and increase police effectiveness. At the same time, the mayor strongly believes this is not exclusively a police matter and is committed to making investments in education and citywide economic development — including the expansion of universal mentoring for young men in the most violent neighborhoods.”

Local law enforcement’s latest efforts to build bridges with communities across Chicago comes amid an ongoing federal investigation being conducted by the Department of Justice with regards to the CPD’s policing tactics.

“Our goal in this investigation – as in all of our pattern-or-practice investigations — is not to focus on individuals, but to improve systems; to ensure that officers are being provided with the tools they need — including training, policy guidance and equipment — to be more effective, to partner with civilians and to strengthen public safety,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in announcing the probe last December.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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