A Tale of Two Cities: NYC Sees Dramatic Drop in Homicides, Chicago Sees Dramatic Rise

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was crowing.

"The number of murders this year will be lower than any time in recorded city history," Bloomberg said Friday in a statement announcing that homicides in the city this year had fallen to 414 -- the fewest since it started keeping such statistics in 1963.

Pictured: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, pictured at a flag-raising ceremony at the Chicago Police Academy in October, said this month that "we will not rest" until Chicago's growing homicide rate is reversed.
About the same time Friday, Chicago police were trying to get the message out that their city hadn't actually recorded its 500th homicide this year, as was being reported. A few hours later, they had to backtrack and acknowledge that, yes, in fact, "the city has seen its 500th homicide for 2012."

That's right: There were more homicides this year in Chicago than in New York, a city with three times the population. That means Chicagoans were proportionally 3.7 times more likely to be homicide victims than New Yorkers were in 2012.

Overall, crime is down in Chicago in just about every category -- except the most devastating one.

"We've obviously seen, as a city, our shootings and our homicides going in a different direction," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said this month at a graduation ceremony for police recruits, vowing, "We will not rest" until that trend is reversed.

Meanwhile, in New York, "we're preventing crimes before someone is killed," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Friday.

New York didn't just reduce homicides -- it reduced them by 19.6 percent. And Chicago didn't just have more homicides -- it had 15.6 percent more.

Both figures are extraordinary. Last year, homicides fell by about 4 percent in New York, exactly in line with other U.S. cities with populations greater than 1 million, according to FBI figures. They fell in Chicago by just less than three-quarters of 1 percent.

While there's always the chance that the changes are just statistical flukes, two concrete factors appear to be at least partly responsible: money and priorities.

New York's police budget held steady in fiscal 2012, at about $4.6 billion.

Emanuel, facing a $300 million budget deficit, by contrast cut $67 million from the $1.3 billion police budget -- a 5 percent reduction that was down from his original proposal to cut police funding by 15 percent.

While Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said the cuts would help the police department become more efficient, Jens Ludwig, a criminal justice expert at the University of Chicago, said you'd have to be a fool "to think that you could have budget cuts like these and have no impact on crime and other aspects of public life."

SOURCE: M. Alex Johnson
NBC News
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