Chicago gun violence down for 13th straight month, but robberies in affluent areas up

CHICAGO, Illinois -- Chicago police say March ended as the 13th straight month to see a drop in gun violence.

There were 29 homicides during the month — 10 fewer than were reported in March of last year. And the department says there was a similar drop in the number of shooting incidents and shooting victims.

Homicides have dropped by about 17 percent this year, with 108 incidents compared to 140 during the same three-month period last year. Shooting victims have decreased by nearly 30 percent, from 687 to 486, according to the Chicago Tribune's shooting database.

Chicago Police say the drop in both homicides and shooting incidents that began early last year coincides with the expanded use of technology that helps police better identify areas where crimes might be committed and respond quicker to shooting incidents.

However, Chicago crime data also shows increased robberies in more affluent areas of the city that tend to attract lots of tourists.

City crime numbers indicate that the downtown area known as the Loop saw 86 robbery reports during nearly the first three months of this year, the Chicago Tribune reported . That figure is the highest for that time period in at least 15 years. The area saw 49 robbery reports during that time last year.

The Loop represents an area surrounded by the Chicago Transit Authority's elevated train lines and is home to some of the city's most notable restaurants, bars and hotels. The area includes the Chicago Theatre and Willis Tower, two popular spots for tourists.

Other areas near the Loop have also seen robbery spikes, such as the Near North Side and Lincoln Park.

"Dedicated teams" of officers are responding to the robbery spike, said Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. Officers are monitoring potential suspects traveling through the areas by CTA trains, he said.

People must stay vigilant and watch for thieves, many of whom are juveniles, Johnson said. Juveniles make up about 40 percent of robbery suspects arrested this year, he said.

"They're opportunists," he said. "They go to areas where they think people aren't paying attention. We have a generation of people glued to their cellphones."

Despite the spike in downtown robberies, theft declined across the city overall by 14 percent, from almost 2,500 last year to about 2,100, according to police statistics through March 25.