Chicago Police

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson speaks at a news conference Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, in Chicago.

CHICAGO — Chicago saw half as many homicides in January compared to the same month last year, marking a dramatic drop in the city's homicide level that hasn't been recorded for a January in nearly a decade, police said Friday.

The Chicago Police Department said last month ended with 20 homicides, the lowest January total in nine years, while the number of shooting incidents, 100, was the lowest for January in five years. The drops are part a trend that began after 2016, when the number of homicides in Chicago spiked to more than 770 — the city's highest in 19 years — and put Chicago's gun violence in the national spotlight.

The numbers were released a day after a federal judge approved a far-reaching plan for court-supervised reforms of the police force.

Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said several factors have contributed to the falling crime numbers. He said the two key elements have been the hiring of more officers and the expansion of high-tech crime fighting tools, such as gunshot-detection technology that quickly tells officers where a gun has been fired.

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"Those are the two main pillars," Guglielmi said.

The department put nearly 200 new officers on the street in January, adding to almost 1,000 new officers that have been added in the last two years.

January also marked an eventful month for the department for less flattering reasons: A judge handed down a nearly seven-year prison sentence for Jason Van Dyke, the white Chicago police officer convicted of killing Laquan McDonald, a black teenager who was shot 16 times while armed with a small knife in 2014.

Van Dyke was sentenced a day after a different judge acquitted three other Chicago police officers accused of lying about the shooting to protect Van Dyke.

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