The number of murders in Chicago in 2016 was the highest in almost 20 years and more than Los Angeles and New York combined.
The staggering numbers led a police spokesman to call it an “unacceptable rise in violence.”
Altogether, 762 people were murdered in Chicago in 2016, police said. The numbers have prompted some to call Chicago “Chi-raq.”
Police are blaming everything from lax gun laws to anger at police. The latter contention is controversial and is sometimes called the “Ferguson effect.” The president-elect is weighing in:
The numbers come after years of violent crime declines in major cities.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Chicago’s Police Superintendent Is Blaming Anti-Police Anger For ‘Emboldening’ Criminals
Eddie Johnson, the Chicago police superintendent, said in a news conference that anger at police over the shootings of African-American men has “emboldened” criminals to commit violent crimes. You can watch Johnson’s news conference here:
“In many instances, the individuals who chose to pull the trigger and wreak havoc in some of our communities were repeat gun offenders emboldened by the national climate toward law enforcement and willing to test the limits of our criminal justice system,” Johnson said.
The majority of the increase was driven primarily by five police districts. “These emboldened criminals were responsible for destroying families and communities,” said Johnson.
Johnson said the police would be unrolling a series of initiatives centered around addressing “flaws in sentencing guidelines for repeat gun offenders,” targeted “data-driven enforcement,” and renewed community partnership programs.
He said attacks on police are also up, ABC News reported.
2. Chicago Also Recorded Thousands of Non-Fatal Shootings
The homicide numbers only tell part of the story (see above for spatial distribution; the Chicago Police Department offers an online tool for the public to customize crime maps).
However, non-fatal shootings can sometimes be a better barometer of the level of violence in a community.
On that front, Chicago’s numbers are also pretty jaw dropping. The city recorded 3,550 shooting incidents and 4,331 shooting victims, reported ABC 7.
Other major crime categories were also up.
Things had looked better in 2015, when the Chicago Police Department announced: “In 2015, Chicago saw the fourth straight year of reductions in overall crime and the fewest violent crime incidents since the 1960’s.”
3. More Than Two Dozen People Were Shot in the Last Week of December Alone
According to CNN, 27 shootings, including 12 that were fatal, occurred in Chicago in the last week of December alone.
Fox News reported that the city saw 1,100 more shootings in 2016 than the previous year.
Most of Chicago’s shootings occurred in five police districts on Chicago’s south and west sides, reported ABC News, which added that 80 percent of the murder victims had past arrests or gang associations.
4. Police Confiscated More Guns & Made More Gun Arrests in 2016
According to ABC News, Chicago police confiscated 8,300 illegal guns in 2016, which was a 20 percent increase from the previous year. Police have blamed the influx of firearms in part for the murder increase.
The police commissioner has said that Chicago’s gun laws are too lax. Officers also confiscated more firearms in Chicago than New York and LA combined, Johnson said. (When it comes to homicides, New York had reported 330 through December 25. As of December 30, Los Angeles had recorded about 290 homicides.)
5. The Recent Murders Range From Domestic Violence to Attacks on Business Owners
In an attempt to humanize the victims behind the numbers, the Chicago Sun-Times has created homicide watch, a feature that contains stories about every murder victim in the city.
Some of the latest victims include Sylvia Brice, a mother and grandmother stabbed to death in a domestic attack and two brothers, James Gill, 18, and Roy Gill III, 21, who were shot to death on a porch, the Sun-Times reported.