AURORA – For the first time in more than six decades, Aurora finished the year without a single homicide, after years of efforts by police and community groups to end violence between rival gangs in Illinois' second-largest city.
The western Chicago suburb, home to nearly 200,000, was homicide-free last year for the first time since 1946.
"That's amazing," Aurora Police Chief Greg Thomas told The (Aurora) Beacon-News. "We went through a lot of stuff to get there."
The last killing reported in the city was on Dec. 21, 2011, when a 21-year-old woman died in a domestic violence attack.
Aurora struggled with gang violence beginning in the 1990s. The city's homicides peaked with 26 in both 1995 and 1996. As recently as 2007, the city averaged more than one homicide per month.
Community groups stepped in to try to keep young people off the streets and more after-school programs were created. Clergy held vigils at the site of every killing.
The police department got help from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. They teamed up for sweeps against gang members. Federal charges brought longer prison sentences and motivated other suspects to cooperate with investigators, The Beacon-News reported.
By 2011, Aurora logged only two homicides for the year.
By comparison, Illinois' third-largest city, Rockford, had 14 homicides in 2012. That was that city's lowest number since 2004, when there were eight, the Rockford Register Star reported Wednesday.
In Chicago, about 40 miles to the east of Aurora, homicides rose to 506 in 2012.