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With 42 homicides, Chicago sees most violent January in 11 years

The month isn't over yet, but Chicago has already logged 42 homicides, making this the city's most violent January since 2002. A teenage girl who attended Obama's inauguration is the latest victim.  

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Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, right, offers the city's condolences to the Pendelton family during a news conference seeking help in solving the murder of Pendelton's daughter Hadiya Wednesday in Chicago. Hadiya was Chicago's 42nd homicide victim during the month of January.

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

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One month into the new year Chicago has already set an ignominious record for homicides.

By late Tuesday, the Chicago Police Department had logged 42 such killings, making this the second consecutive January to top 40 homicides and the most violent first month of the year since 2002. By sheer happenstance, the 42nd victim was a teenage girl who had performed with her high school band at President Obama's inauguration earlier this month.

The January report does not bode well for turning the corner from last year, when homicides totaled 513 – the highest since 2008. Last summer, as the body count rose – primarily in marginalized swaths of Chicago where joblessness and poverty seem entrenched – Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy stood together to blame the epidemic of shootings on squabbles between multiplying gang factions and a proliferation of illegal guns.

Measures they have introduced to address the surge in homicides include partnering with CeaseFire, the nonprofit group that mediates street conflicts, and demolishing more than 200 vacant buildings that the city considers to be breeding grounds for crime. The police are also refocusing efforts from general sweeps of certain gangs and areas to hotspots or individuals deemed key to the shootings. Central to that strategy is an effort to determine when retaliation to a shooting may happen happen and who might be involved.

More recently, city officials are working on initiatives to address guns. Already, gun shops are banned within city limits, and Chicago has in place byzantine restrictions on handgun ownership to try to prevent illegal sales and transport of guns. But officials here say weaker laws in surrounding suburbs and neighboring states mean that criminals can buy guns fairly easily and bring them back to Chicago.

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