BY MICHAEL LANSU
Homicide Watch Chicago Editor
Chicago had half as many murders in January 2014 compared to the first month of 2013.
Police reported 20 killings in the month, which had 11 days of subzero temperature and was one of the coldest months in recent years.
“The superintendent has said weather is a factor, but its not the only factor,” said Chicago Police spokesman Adam Collins. “It neither causes nor prevents crime.”
Overall, Chicago had 50 percent fewer killings than it did in January 2013, when 40 people were murdered; 47 percent fewer slayings than January 2012, when 38 people were killed; and a 29 percent decrease from January 2011, when 28 people were murdered, police said.
Eighteen of the 20 murders were shootings. In the other two, Stephanie Serrano was stabbed to death at a Jan. 6 party and Caridine was found beaten to death in his apartment Jan. 22, according autopsies performed by the medical examiner’s office.
Three of the city’s 77 community areas had multiple murders in January. The Chicago Lawn community had the most killings with five. South Lawndale and Chatham also tallied multiple slayings with three and two, respectively.
The decrease in murders came in one of the coldest Januarys in recent years. The average temperature in January 2014 was about 15.5 degrees — about 8.5 degrees colder than normal, according to the National Weather Service. The average temperature was about 26.5 degrees in January 2013 and about 30 degrees in January 2012 — nearly three to 6.5 degrees warmer than normal.
Despite the colder temperature, Chicago still tallied a murder on 14 different days in January 2014 — including one on the coldest day of the month when the average temperature was minus-9 degrees.
The city recorded 90 shootings and 98 shooting victims in January 2014 — the lowest total in the past four years, police said. In the first month of 2013, the city had 158 shootings and 186 victims.
“After historic lows in crime and violence in 2013, January saw continued progress, yet much more work remains to be done and no one will rest until everyone in Chicago enjoys the same sense of safety,” Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said in a statement. “We are continuing to make progress, like the near all-time lows we saw last February and March, but it will become more challenging without better laws that help keep illegal guns out of our communities and punish the criminals who carry them.”
The Cook County medical examiner’s office, which classifies killings different, ruled 23 Chicago deaths homicides. Authorities determined three of the deaths were involuntary manslaughter, which Chicago Police do not count as murders in accordance with the FBI’s Unified Crime Reporting System.
In the first manslaughter case, 52-year-old Joeann Smith fatally shot 65-year-old relative Willie Smith at her South Shore home during a Jan. 8 argument about whether the gun would fire, authorities said. She was charged with reckless discharge of a firearm.
In the second incident, a 31-year-old woman was released without being charged for fatally stabbing 38-year-old Danny Melendez Jan. 29 in the 2300 block of North Cicero Avenue, authorities said.
The third justified homicide happened when a Pilsen resident fatally shot alleged burglar Mario Viramontes in the 2000 block of West 21st Street, authorities said. Viramontes, 31, was dead on the scene.