UPDATED 08/02/12 1:18 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Police Department hopes the latest monthly murder numbers are a sign of better things to come.

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WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports there were 49 murders in the city in July, six fewer than July 2011. It’s also the third lowest murder total for July in Chicago in the past 25 years.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy sees that as a sign his anti-gang strategies are starting to work.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports

In a letter to Ald. James Balcer (11th), who chairs the City Council Committee on Public Safety, McCarthy wrote “we are working night and day to get the guns, gangs and drugs off the streets to address the main drivers behind shootings and murders occurring in our communities, because one shooting or murder is one too many.”

“Great strides have been made toward realizing this goal, even as a unique gang problem has challenged our mission and dedicated efforts,” McCarthy added. “We are encouraged by improving benchmarks, but will not rest until we see drops that bring a high level of safety and quality of life to all areas of the city.”

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But he wrote that he is encouraged by the fact that “shooting increases that emerged in the first quarter of 2012 have declined significantly from their highest points, and murder totals for the month of July are the lowest the city has seen since 1987.”

Despite July’s drop in homicides compared to 2011, this year’s murder rate is still outpacing last year by more than 25 percent.

Through the end of July, 308 people had been murdered in Chicago, compared to 243 through the end of July 2011.

Homicides peaked in April, with a 66 percent increase compared with the same time period last year.

The total number of shooting incidents was higher last month than in July of last year, but not by nearly the same factor as the increases earlier in the year, police said. Last month, shootings were up 6 percent, while back in March, they were up 40 percent over the same time last year.

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Overall crime was also down by 10 percent last month, police said.