Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy was on the hot seat Friday, answering questions before a City Council committee about how the department collects and reports crime statistics.
A department spokesman early Friday morning said the city closed the first seven months of the year with the fewest number of homicides since 1963 and said overall crime in the city was down 14 percent year-over-year.
Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) questioned those numbers, inquiring how the department can say crime is down when the number of shootings has increased.
"The administration says, 'Oh yeah, crime is down,'" he said. "Well crime is down compared to what? We have just seen the worst month of shootings in this city. We've had almost 350 people shot, over 40 killed, and what are we talking about?"
In a two-part series, Chicago Magazine earlier this year reported the department sometimes counts multiple incidents as a single event, adding that there is pressure to under-report crime. Those are allegations McCarthy vehemently denied.
"The allegations in the article are false," McCarthy told the 12 of the city 50 aldermen who attended the hearing.
Police spokesman Martin Maloney earlier in the morning released data indicating there were 66 more shooting incidents in the first seven months of 2014 than in the first seven months of 2013. Additionally, there were 127 more shooting victims in the first seven months of 2014 than in the first seven months of 2013.
Still, there were 17 fewer homicides in the city in the first seven months of the year compared to the same time in 2013, and 92 fewer homicides than were recorded between January and July of 2012, the department said.
"We're pleased with it. It's progress, not success, like I always say. At the end of the day there's a lot of things that police can do about reducing crime but it takes a whole bunch of other things," McCarthy told NBC Chicago during a television appearance Friday morning in advance of the City Council hearing. "The mayor is obviously very, very active in this, putting together programs to get kids off the street while at the same time having intelligent crime initiatives."
The city's top cop continued his drumbeat that the flow of illegal guns in the city and the lack of legislation to record the transfer and sale of firearms remain the city's greatest crime-related threats.
"My greatest source of frustration is the fact that I can see with such clarity what we need to do to turn this issue around in the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago," he said. "Coming from a place like New York, where there are more strict gun laws that restrict the number of guns coming in and gives punishment on the back end when people are arrested with those guns. The single most important thing that happens here is that we recover more guns than anyplace else in the country every single year. [It was] seven to one compared to New York last year."
Several aldermen in the self-described "Progressive Caucus" questioned the timing of Friday's hearing. They assumed they were done with business after Wednesday's City Council meeting, as is tradition.
Friday's hearing appeared on the schedule at the last minute on Thursday, leading some to argue that Mayor Rahm Emanuel deliberately called the meeting on a Friday, when public attention would be diverted by the weekend and Lollapalooza.