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Chicago Police Tout Drop In Violent Crime Compared With Last Year, But Experts Say Figures Can Be Misleading

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Coincidentally just minutes after a 9-year-old girl was shot and critically wounded at 79th Street and Maryland Avenue Thursday afternoon, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown stepped up to the mic for a news conference to talk about the city's drop in violence.

In addition to celebrating declines in violent crime statistics in the last month, Chicago Police on Thursday also revealed new details tonight about the city's plans to combat violence over the July 4th holiday.

Meanwhile, CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey dug into the bigger picture — and experts told her some of the numbers in those crime statistic police touted can be misleading.

June 2021 was much better than June 2020. June 2021 saw a double digit decrease in murders compared to June 2020, marking the third month in a row that Chicago saw a decline.

But criminology experts argue using the violent pandemic year as a benchmark misses the overall picture.

"It is a comparison point, but it's not a high bar," said Northwestern University professor Wesley Skogan.

Skogan, who studies crime policy and policing, said violent crime levels are still bad.

"The concern on my part is that 2020 is a terrible benchmark," Skogan said. "It tied for the third highest spiking in the homicide rate in Chicago's modern history."

Professor Dave Olson of the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Loyola University Chicago called 2021 an "anomaly."

He agreed that we need to look at the bigger picture.

"And 2021, while it seems to be a slight improvement, still is at a relatively high rate when you compare it to just a couple years ago in 2019," Olson said.

This year's year-to-date shootings and murders when compared to just before the pandemic — in 2018 and 2019 — are still significantly higher.

From January through June 2018, there were 263 homicides, and there were 246 for the same period in 2019. But in 2020, that number jumped to 338, and in 2021, it is down only six to 332.

Police Supt. Brown acknowledged that at the Thursday news conference.

"No one's here bragging, boasting, or satisfied for that matter," Brown said. "We'd love to be back on momentum of the 2019 decline, but we're grinding our way with progress."

As for the 4th of July weekend, officers are moving to 12-hour shifts starting at 6 a.m. Friday. All days off Friday through Monday are canceled.

The detective division also with overlap patrol areas.

"They'll have additional personnel on the ground to be able to deal with any internal issues at the district level," said Chicago Police First Deputy Supt. Eric Carter.

Olson and Skogan see the benefits of officer saturation, but note that the effects aren't always long-lasting.

"We're also in 2021, this year, talking about the potential for saturation by street outreach workers and other kinds of crime prevention of personnel," Skogan said.

"Hopefully, their efforts do suppress the violence, but at some point, they got to reduce their overtime," added Olson. "They've got to let police officers take time off."

Supt. Brown said the Police Department has been trying to give as much advanced notice as possible when it comes to canceling days off. On Thursday, he also said that so far this year their use of overtime is down about 30 percent.

Meanwhile, the full City Council has a special meeting on Friday. A group of aldermen want to question the superintendent about his plan.

The question is, will Brown reveal anything more to them?

Brown dodged questions about that subject on Thursday. When asked if he would answer the questions posed by the aldermen Friday, and he would only respond that he "will be there."

For her part, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Supt. Brown will be answering questions at the emergency City Council meeting on Friday. But on Thursday, Mayor Lightfoot said the special meeting amounts to nothing more than "political theater."

"Do I think this is about public safety? No, I do not. Are we going to be there to answer questions so residents are assured? Absolutely, we will," Mayor Lightfoot said. "But let's face the facts here. This is political shenanigans."

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