(CHICAGO) -- There has been a 44 percent decline in the number of homicides in Chicago in the first two months of 2019 as compared to the same period in 2018, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) said in a statement on Friday.
"In fact, February year-to-date homicides posted five-year lows," the statement reads, "and four districts ... have had no murders this year."
From Jan. 1 to Feb. 28, 2019, there were 44 murders, police reported, compared to 80 in the same period in 2018. This is down from 101 in 2017 and 99 in 2016.
Police believe several factors are contributing to this decline, including "smart policing strategy," and community outreach, including work on domestic violence.
"CPD's combined approach of adding manpower and new technology along with doubling down on neighborhood partnerships is working," Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in the statement.
In September 2016, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a plan to increase the police force by 970 officers by the end of 2018.
From those efforts, the statement says, 95 new officers were deployed. Over 1,200 additional police officers were deployed since last January, per police.
However, the department has reportedly faced problems hiring black officers, the Chicago Tribune reported in May 2018 — although it had been attempting to increase diversity.
Additionally, CPD opened Strategic Decision Support Centers — technologically advanced centers that "bring together police officers and analysts from the Crime Lab to integrate crime intelligence, data analysis and technology," according to the University of Chicago's Urban Labs — in two districts in February.
"Many officers credit the seven percent decline in shootings in February 2019, compared to February 2018 with the continued rollout of these centers, as this data is used to predict where and when shootings could take place," the CPD statement says.
In the first two months of 2019, there were 214 shootings, compared to 282 in the same period in 2018. This brought the number of shooting victims down from 345 in 2018 to 253 in 2019.
It has been a high-profile year for the CPD so far. The department has been dealing with the ongoing investigation over the possibility that "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett may have staged a hate crime in the city, and in January, officer Jason Van Dyke was sentenced to 81 months in prison for the shooting death of black teen Laquan McDonald.
On Friday, police reforms went into effect in Chicago requiring the department to publish use-of-force data, tighten police on the use of Tasers and document each time officers draw weapons, according to the local ABC affiliate, in response to a 2017 Justice Department finding of a pattern and practice of civil rights violations by CPD officers.
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