CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago, which has about a third of the population of New York City, recorded three times more homicides than the Big Apple in the month of January.
There were at least 42 murders in Chicago last month, compared with 14 in New York City. It was the deadliest month in January in Chicago since 2002 when there were 45 homicides reported. Most, but not all, of the homicides last month were from shootings.
And the killing continued in February. This time, right downtown, where a woman was killed driving a van right by the city’s convention center, McCormick Place. The van was “riddled with bullets” in an early morning drive-by attack.
The reasons for the violence in Chicago center mostly on an epidemic of gang violence and the power struggles between scores of rival factions. Interestingly, however, is the fact that while Chicago has one of the most stringent gun ownership laws in the nation, most criminals caught with illegal guns never do jail time.
That is a marked difference from New York, where an illegal gun conviction, carries a mandatory three to five-year prison sentence, CBS News Senior Correspondent John Miller reports.
In Chicago, most of those convicted don’t serve any jail time, meaning people likely to possess a weapon illegally remain on the street. About 44 percent of those cases result in no jail time, while 33 percent are simply dismissed.
“The bottom line is if you are criminal and you are thinking, ‘Do I take that gun when I leave the house today or not,’ the risk factor in most major cities is pretty low,” Miller said.
Gun ownership was illegal in Chicago for years, until the Supreme Court ruled that unconstitutional. Now the city requires several steps to register a gun in the city.
To make matters more complicated, CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports that the relationship between the Cook County prosecutors who take major crimes to trial and the Chicago Police department is poor. That means, getting murder cases closed in Chicago becomes even more difficult.
So, the risk of a murderer actually getting caught is also low.
The website DNAInfo reports that the rate of unsolved murders in Chicago in 2012 stands at around 75 percent. That’s the worst clearance rate in two decades.
Chicago also seems to have more weapons on the streets than New York. Police here seized more than twice as many guns than the Big Apple in 2012, the New York Times reported.
About 300 weapons were seized in Chicago in the first two weeks of 2013 alone.