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Chicago murder rate far worse than during Al Capone 'gangland' days

St. Valentine's Day Massacre
January 31, 2013 10:00:00 PM PST
In this I-Team report, Chicago's rising murder rate in a new context, how the numbers of shooting deaths compare to the city's most notorious crime era, the one that has tarnished Chicago's reputation around the world for a century.

The surprising stats show the city is worse off now in the category of murder than at the height of the era that has driven Chicago's reputation for almost a century, Capone's "gangland" Chicago.

Let's compare two months: January 1929, leading up to the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, and last month, January 2013. Forty-two people were killed in Chicago last month, the most in January since 2002, and far worse than the city's most notorious crime era at the end of the Roaring Twenties.

Even though the image of Chicago, perpetuated by Hollywood over the years, was that mobsters routinely mowed down people on the streets, the crime stats tell a different story. January 2013's bloodshed has caught the attention of Chicagoans, politicians, the White House and people around the world.

In January 1929 there were 26 killings. Forty-two people were killed in Chicago last month, the most in January since 2002, and far worse than the city's most notorious crime era at the end of the Roaring Twenties.

Even though the image of Chicago, perpetuated by Hollywood over the years, was that mobsters routinely mowed down people on the streets, the crime stats tell a different story. The figures from January 2013 are significantly higher than the January of Al Capone's most famous year.

With Friday's fatal gunshot attack on a vehicle on a Lake Shore Drive, February is starting as January left off. But if the current murder rate continues, February 2013 will far exceed February 1929, when there were 26 killings, and that number includes the attack known around the world, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. In that single slaughter, seven people were lined up against a warehouse wall on North Clark Street and gunned down. It was a bootlegging dispute between North and South Side mob gangs.

That hasn't changed between then and now, as police today cite street gangs and drugs for the rise in killings.

The 42 murders in January is nowhere near the most ever in a month, but even that figure is not from the rat-a-tat-tat years. It is from the early 90s, when police also said a mix of gangs and drugs fueled the tremendous number of killings.

In January 1992 there were 77 murders in Chicago. That is the January record. Most of the murders then and this year were with guns. That was also the case in 1929.

There was no real gun control back in Capone's day. The first national firearms act wasn't signed until 1934. It required approval of the local police chief, federally registered fingerprints, federal background check and a $200 tax.

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