CHICAGO (AP) — Homicides in Chicago spiked by 60 percent during the first three months of the year despite an increase in police resources in some of the city's most dangerous neighborhoods, according to new police crime statistics.
The Chicago Police Department data showed that nonfatal shootings also rose sharply in the first quarter compared with the same three months in 2011.
Chicago police and Mayor Rahm Emanuel say the city has increased efforts to combat gang crime, including adding officers and other resources in trouble spots such as the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side. Police blame much of the violence on the city's more than 70 active gangs and their tens of thousands of members. The mayor has urged residents to take a stand against gangs in their communities.
The police statistics show 120 homicides from Jan. 1 through April 1, compared with 75 over the same period in 2011.
One criminologist said unseasonably warm weather might have contributed to the spike.
"In better weather, people are outside more, interacting more with neighbors, acquaintances, even strangers, and there's greater opportunity for conflict than when it's cold and windy," James Alan Fox told the Chicago Tribune.
Fox, a professor of criminology, law and public policy at Northeastern University in Boston, cautioned that it's too early to draw hard conclusions from three months of data, noting that the number of homicides in Chicago has been at historic lows in recent years.
All six other crime categories tracked in the police statistics were down, including a 15 percent decline in sexual assaults and a 9 percent drop in robberies. Car thefts declined 16 percent to 4,081.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.