CHICAGO (AP) — The July 4 weekend in Chicago ended with 50 people shot, three fatally, by gunfire after the police force flooded the streets with thousands of officers and arrested dozens of gang members.
On Tuesday, a day after pointing to the statistics as "progress" in the fight against the city's street violence, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said there were three fewer homicides this July 4 weekend than last year's holiday weekend. And while there were 50 shooting victims compared to 48 in 2015, he noted July 4 fell on Monday this year, adding one more day to the holiday weekend.
The weekend also ended with three fewer homicides and six fewer shooting victims than the Memorial Day weekend.
The dramatic rise in the number of homicides and shootings in the first half of 2016 compared to the same time last year — culminating in 72 homicides and 447 shooting victims in June alone — had raised fears in some of the city's most dangerous neighborhoods that the long holiday weekend would be particularly bloody.
But after 5,000 officers hit the streets — 1,000 to 2,000 more than a typical summer weekend — there was a feeling of relief.
"We were on a pace this year that we thought the violence was going to go off the charts," said the Rev. Marshall Hatch, a prominent minister on Chicago's West Side. "I think it would have been a lot worse out there if it weren't for these (police department) efforts."
During a press briefing Tuesday, Johnson suggested the department's crime fighting measures he implemented over the weekend paid off. But he hinted that it might be difficult to dispatch the same number of officers to the streets every weekend during the summer, when the number of violent crimes typically climbs.
"Some parts of it (are) sustainable and some will be a bit of a challenge," Johnson said.
The weekend did bring into focus a cornerstone of the department's strategy to reduce the violence: A concerted effort to target the city's street gangs. In two raids last week, the latter ending late Friday, the department reported that more than 110 gang members were arrested on drug and gun charges.
The vast majority of those are on a list of people police have identified as being most likely to be suspects or victims in gun violence. The department hopes that as more of those people are taken into custody, the number of shootings will drop.
Johnson has said there will be more raids in the coming months like the ones the department conducted last week.