M. Spencer Green/AP file
Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy announced a 42 percent drop in murders in the first quarter of 2013.
Three months after Chicago notched the most murders in the nation, officials are touting a dramatic downturn in crime.
In the first quarter of the year, murders dropped 42 percent over the same period last year and shootings were down 27 percent -- reductions that authorities say were fueled by anti-gang initiatives.
"These numbers are progress but they are by no means victory," Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said in a statement.
The encouraging figures come after a series of crimes that made Chicago a symbol of urban gun violence.
The nation's third-largest city ended 2012 with the most slayings: 506. Then came the shooting death of innocent teenager Hadiya Pendleton, who had just performed with her school marching band during President Obama's inauguration weekend activities. She was killed during the deadliest January that Chicago had seen in a decade.
But March, in particular, brought good news for the city and its beleaguered police force: murders down 69 percent, with 36 fewer people slain than in March 2012.
There were still horrific headlines out of Chicago last month, though, such as 6-month-old Jonylah Watkins being gunned down in what police said was a gang-related shooting aimed at her father.
And on the day that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and McCarthy announced the new crime stats, they also had to answer questions about a wild weekend melee by teenagers along the city's Magnificent Mile.
McCarthy told NBCChicago.com that the advent of warmer weather was partly to blame for the disturbance because it brings young people outside.
Since Pendleton's murder, the Police Department has put more officers on the street and City Hall is beefing up after-school and summer job programs to stop youths from falling in with gangs.
McCarthy said the first-quarter numbers are "encouraging" but cautioned that there are no shortcuts to cracking down on crime.
"It's not like a Jenga game where if you pull out that one stick everything falls down," he said.
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