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The Chicago Police Department called attention on Monday to the high number of illegal guns taken off the streets this year, as the city was expected to report a decline in violent crime for 2018.

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The department was on track to seize about 9,500 illegal guns by the end of the year, marking the highest number of confiscated weapons in Chicago in five years, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

“While simultaneously reducing crime and gun violence, Chicago Police officers have made exceptional progress interdicting the flow of illegal guns through our city,” CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a statement on Monday.

The total reached 9,400 by Christmas Eve after officers seized nearly 50 guns over the weekend, the department said. If the department stays on track in the final days of 2018, it would mean a 9 percent increase in removing illegal guns compared to 2017.

In October, the department reported that the city’s murder rate was down 20 percent at that point compared to the same time in 2017, according to WLS-TV. Shootings also decreased from 2,217 in 2017 to 1,843 in 2018—that’s an 18 percent reduction.

“It’s progress. We still have challenging days and we’re going to continue having some challenging days, but this is definitely a step in the right direction,” Chicago Police Deputy Superintendent Anthony Riccio said about the reduction of violent crime.

The department was cautiously optimistic since April that the city had turned a corner on gang-related shootings, which have too often taken innocent lives with stray bullets.

March was the 13th consecutive month of declining gun violence in the nation’s third largest city. The downward trend continued from 2016 when the city recorded 771 murders—the highest rate in nearly two decades.

Police officials identified three factors in April that helped to reduce gun violence: hiring more officers, improving community policing and utilizing technology, including gunshot detection systems and software that predicts criminal activity.

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint. As long as we keep trending the way we are and we keep developing these relationships and partnerships and continue to invest in our police department, then we’ll see the gains that we’re looking for,” Johnson said earlier this year.

In the most recent data, 4,249 people have been arrested on gun-related charges, police said. Most of those weapons were semi-automatic handguns. There were also nearly 200 assault-style weapons seized, including AK-47 and AR-15 rifles.


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