For Chicago, 7 fatal shootings in a weekend represents progress

CHICAGO, Ill. (CNN) — It was a bloody Father’s Day weekend in Chicago, but police said murder and shooting rates are significantly below those at the same time last year.

Seven people were shot to death and there were 26 “shooting incidents” from Friday to Sunday, according to Chicago Police Department spokesman Adam Collins.

But to put it into perspective, Collins said, eight more people were shot on the same weekend last year. He said overall crime in Chicago is down 14%, the lowest since 1963.

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy issued a statement regarding the weekend’s violence, saying that “while we’ve had fewer murders to date this year than any year since the mid-1960s, there’s more work to be done and whether it’s police, clergy, community organizations, parents or residents, we all have a role to play in continuing to reduce violence and no one will rest until everyone in Chicago enjoys the same sense of safety.”

The city ended 2012 with a marked increase in homicides, with 506 people killed that year, up from 433 in 2011. Forty-three people were killed in January 2013 alone.

Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was one of those January victims. The teenager had just performed at one of the events surrounding President Barack Obama’s inauguration in Washington when she was shot dead in a park a mile from his Chicago home. First lady Michelle Obama attended Pendleton’s funeral, and her story became part of the national gun-control debate. Two men have been charged in Pendleton’s death.

In a February speech about gun violence, President Obama said that poverty and violence are connected and that parents and communities must work to provide hope for young people.

“In too many neighborhoods today, whether here in Chicago or the farthest reaches of rural America, it can feel like, for a lot of young people, the future only extends to the next street corner or the outskirts of town,” he said at a Chicago high school.

“This is not just a gun issue,” he continued. “It’s also an issue of the kinds of communities that we’re building, and for that we all share responsibility as citizens to fix it.”

The March shooting death of a 6-month-old baby also captured national headlines. Jonylah Watkins was killed while her father, Jonathan, was changing her diaper in a minivan, police said. A man has been charged in the shooting, which prosecutors say stemmed from the theft of a video game.

Chicago’s police department has been implementing a new plan to fight crime, and “we’ve come up with what I think is a groundbreaking way to do it,” McCarthy told CNN.

The plan centers around drug operations, a new gang database system and more beat cops on the street.

“The same cops on the same street every day, and they know the kids who are coming from basketball practice and the kids that are standing on the street corner,” McCarthy said.

But the city has used more than 75% of its overtime budget, and despite the success, not everyone agrees this is the best way forward.

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois announced a plan last month to arrest thousands of gang members — a plan that was called a “white boy solution” by U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush of Chicago.

Rush favors community development programs over heavy-handed justice.

“Both are necessary, not either-or, and the notion that its one or the other is wrong,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanueal.

Emanuel helped develop the overall crime strategy, which, along with the policing changes, includes pushing parents to step up, prevention programs and justice. He says despite the success there are still some serious issues that need to be tackled.

“We still have a challenge where people know someone has committed a crime and are not reporting it,” he said. “The community has to be part of the solution to have it long term not momentary, to have it really ingrained to make a community safe.”