Families of victims look to stop the violence

December 31, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Christopher Thomas had hoped to make his mark in the music world with R & B and rap.

Some of his work spoke out against the epidemic of urban gun violence. Thomas, on the way to a recording session Sunday, was shot to death in the South Side Washington Park neighborhood. He now becomes one of the last additions to a city murder total that has topped 500 for 2012.

"I never suspected that my brother would be part of that number," said Thomas' sister, Crystal Kyles.

Police Sunday evening did make arrests following the Thomas murder, but details remain unclear. For many other relatives of gun violence, the pain remains very clear, and very real.

"The pain is like your life has actually stopped," Mary Vaughn.

Vaughn's son Eric Williams was killed nine months ago. His murder remains unsolved. Mary joined other relatives of gun violence victims to tell their stories. And some of their attention on this day focused on a Sun-Times analysis showing that retirements in the Chicago police department have led to fewer cops on the beat in many districts, which runs counter to the Emanuel administration pledge to have 1,000 more cops on the street.

"We were told more beat officers," said Father Michael Pfleger. "So my question is 'What's the truth?'"

The department says new recruits are forthcoming. Another class is planned for next year, and it's committed to keeping significant manpower in high crime areas. But for many of these people, haunted by murders - that remain unsolved- the pressing issue is a detective division that they believe to be way understaffed.

"These people whose kids have been dead more than five years, they're gonna say forget it? Really? You won't know what it feels like til it happens to you," said Annette Nance Holt.

The police department recently promoted 70 officers to the rank of detective. It's unclear how retirements, advancement or other departures have impacted the overall number of detectives, but the number of murders is up, and the clearing rate for them is down, in part because many of those fatal shootings, not all, but many, are routed in gang conflict.

Quite often, if there are witnesses, they may not be entirely willing to cooperate.

The Chicago Police Department has responded with the following statement:

"The Sun-Times story is simply inaccurate. First, the Chicago Police Department increased beat patrol officers over the first several months after Mayor Emanuel took office by redeploying approximately 1000 police officers from administrative positions and units and reallocating them to beat patrols. Since then, CPD is continuing to maintain full strength of sworn personnel by hiring 451 new officers in 2012, and will execute a consistent quarterly hiring plan in 2013 that we expect will include hiring approximately 500 new police officers, or whatever number is required to maintain full strength and fill any vacancies from attrition. As always, we constantly assess and analyze our personnel resources in districts on an ongoing basis to ensure that they are properly allocated."

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