Rogers Park homicides down 71%, biggest drop in Chicago - New York News

Rogers Park homicides down 71%, biggest drop in Chicago

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The murder rate in Chicago remains two-and-a-half times higher than the national average, but, compared to a quarter-century ago, the total number of killings has actually dropped by more than 50%.

While violence is a major problem in Chicago, one neighborhood has made real progress against it. A new study reported that, since 1990, the biggest drop in homicide anywhere in Chicago has been in Rogers Park's 24th Police District. The study found 71% fewer killings.

It's the kind of place where a couple paints "Welcome to Rogers Park" under the CTA El tracks, while a few hundred yards away a Haitian immigrant sings on the street.

Rogers Park stretches from the nitty-gritty precincts of Howard Street to pricier real estate next to Park District beaches on Lake Michigan. There was an apparent gang killing at Jarvis and Paulina this summer, the area's fourth murder this year. So, when we told residents homicide here has actually dropped by 71% in the past quarter-century, they were skeptical.

"All you see is all of the bloodshed on television. So, maybe it's just…been pounded into my head," says Fred Miller, an 18-year resident of Roger's Park. "So that's probably why I don't believe it. "

"Well, it is hard to believe [the murder rate is down], because that's an enormous jump," Rogers Park resident and State Rep. Kelly Cassidy says.

Once we showed State Rep. Kelly Cassidy the real numbers documenting the 71% drop in murder, she offered the same explanation many of her neighbors did: their long history of working with the 24th district's community policing officers and the incredibly dense network of grassroots organizations in Rogers Park, with their seemingly nonstop meetings.

"I just came from a meeting. When you got me, when you called me, I was at a meeting. Then I was on my way to another meeting. And I've got a third meeting tonight," Alderman Joe Moore's Betsy Vandercook says. "Everybody in Rogers Park goes to meetings."

It's confirmed in Great American City, a book published last year by the University of Chicago Press. Rogers Park's level of civic activism ranked it in the top 25% of Chicago neighborhoods, far higher than any of the crime-ridden communities on the West and South Sides.

Miller believes getting the community involved is one of the reasons homicides are down.

"Most people do get involved, because every other day there's something in the door asking us to get involved," explains Miller. "If it's street cleaning, if it's back to school. Just everything."

Rogers Park District's Police Commander, Tom Wadtara, told FOX 32 by phone there are volunteer "facilitators" for every one of the 24th district's nine police beats and that dozens often gather at trouble spots identified by police and engage in "positive loitering." They take over a corner or a park for hours at a time, and the bad guys leave.

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