Tale of two cities: Chicago murder rate spikes, New York falls
In a sharp contrast between two of the nation's largest cities, Chicago recorded its 499th murder of 2012 while New York reported 414 murders as of today even though it has more than three times the population, according to police.
Plagued by gang violence, Chicago surpassed last year's murder total of 433 in October and is set for the highest rate of homicide since the third largest US city recorded 512 in 2008. The number is likely to top 500 on the last weekend of the year.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced today that the nation's largest city could finish the year with the lowest number of murders and shootings since 1963, when it began keeping comparable data. The number of murders this year in New York is only about one-fifth the total of 2,245 homicides recorded in the peak year of 1990.
The rising murder rate has frustrated Chicago Police Commissioner Garry McCarthy and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who promised to make the city's streets safer when he took office in May 2011.
New York's Bloomberg trumpeted the news with Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly at a police recruit graduation ceremony in the borough of Brooklyn.
Kelly attributed the decline to the increasing use of stop-and-frisk tactics, when police can stop and search people on the street they consider suspicious.
"We're preventing crimes before someone is killed and before someone else has to go to prison for murder or other serious crimes," Kelly said in a statement.
Civil rights groups and some local politicians have criticized stop-and-frisk tactics, saying that most people stopped turn out to be innocent, and they unfairly target black and Latino men. The practice is the subject of a federal court case over whether it is unconstitutional.
New York has also spent $185 million to settle lawsuits filed against the police during the fiscal year 2011. A total of 8,882 suits were filed against the NYPD, a 10 percent increase from the prior year, according to a report by the city's comptroller's office.