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Chicago homicides concentrated in handful of neighborhoods

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Chicago police say already this year, they have seized more than 680 guns citywide. Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said that large number illustrates the need for tougher gun penalties.

"There are parts of this city, on the south and west side, where we’re fighting with the gangs to get the guns off the street and stop the violence," McCarthy said.

With a national focus on Chicago and what many view as an alarming murder rate, McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have repeatedly insisted that for the most part, the city is actually very safe, with isolated but very violent pockets.

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An analysis of crime statistics would seem to bear that out. While Chicago’s 20th Ward on the south side had an astounding 34 homicides in the last year, and the 24th Ward on the west side had another 30, there are two wards in the city, the 40th and 43rd, where there were no murders at all.

Indeed, another 15 wards had three murders or fewer in the last year.

But at the same time, seven wards saw more than 19 homicides. The 16th ward, on Chicago’s south side, had 28.

In every case, the most violent communities are also the city’s poorest.

"It terrorizes people," said Ald. Willie Cochran, whose 20th ward tops the murder list.

Cochran is a former police officer, who has backed the Superintendent’s crime reduction strategy. But he says it is hard for residents of his community to take comfort in crime statistics which show other parts of the city are safe, when they live in constant fear.

"I want my community to be safe now," he said.

McCarthy noted that already this year, his officers have made over two and a half times the number of gun arrests than their counterparts in New York City, a metropolis three times the size of Chicago. McCarthy blames what he views as lax gun laws in Chicago, where he says violations of gun ordinances draw only a six-month maximum sentence.

"Everybody says Chicago has tough gun laws," McCarthy said. "Patently false."

Earlier Monday, a group of high school students skipped school to stage a march to the spot where King College Prep High School student Hadiya Pendleton was gunned down last week.

"Every single day, people are shot out here, and it’s us kids," said student Chelsea James. "We’re supposed to bury our mothers. Not our mothers burying us."

Choking back tears, fellow student Jordan Willis pleaded with Mayor Emanuel to pour more resources into the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods.

"We’re trying to help our future," she said. "If all the future’s dying, then there’s nothing left."