So far this year, there have been 468 homicides, eclipsing the 331 homicides recorded from January to August of 2015. That's an increase of 41.4 percent. According to ABC News:
“Chicago is on pace for its highest overall murder count since at least 2008, when 513 were recorded in the entire year.”
If the final months of 2016 follow the same trend as 2015, this year may even topple 2003's numbers, when the homicide rate hit 600.
The following is a chart showing Chicago's homicide rate from January 2015 - August 2016:
Chicago police are blaming gangs for the increased violence.
Superintendent Eddie Johnson claims approximately 85% of gun violence in the city is related to a subset of individuals, “many of them affiliated with gangs,” using illegally acquired firearms.
This has caused Johnson to plead with “lawmakers in Springfield to pass legislation requiring harsher sentences for criminals arrested repeatedly for carrying illegal guns,” according to The Chicago Tribune.
Additionally, Chicago police cite a study by the University of Chicago showing that “40 percent of suspects arrested for homicide in 2015 had prior arrests for gun crimes.”
This spike in violence isn't relegated to Chicago, either. The Tribune adds that “cities like Milwaukee and Washington, D.C – both much smaller than Chicago in population – saw homicide spikes that they haven’t experienced in more than two decades.”
The rise in gang-related violence could be attributed to increased timidity among police forces around the country in the wake of multiple high-profile “police brutality” cases. These incidents sparked a wave of protests and riots in Baltimore, New York, Ferguson, Milwaukee, and elsewhere.
The anti-law enforcement sentiment swept up by these riots has led to multiple murders of police, including NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, as well as the “Dallas Five,” who were gunned down by a man who, according to Dallas Police Chief David Brown, said he wanted to kill white police officers.
Independent Journal Review spoke with Heather Mac Donald, author of “The War on Cops,” and fellow at the Manhattan Institute, about the issue.
Mac Donald noted that the primary factor contributing to the spike in Chicago's violent crime rate is that “cops are backing off of proactive policing, and criminals are becoming emboldened.”
“Pedestrian stops are down about 90% in Chicago. As the police union head told me last month, cops are just not 'clearing the corners' anymore. Out of those groups of youth hanging out, loitering, often emerges drive-by shootings and other forms of gang violence.”
While the murder rate in cities like New York and Los Angeles, which are much larger than Chicago, has gone up as well, their numbers don't touch the Windy City's.
According to The Chicago Tribune, up to August 20th, New York City had 222 homicides, and Los Angeles had 176. Chicago has experienced 110% more murders than New York City, despite having a population less than one-third the size.
What makes Chicago so different from New York City, says Mac Donald, is volume of officers:
"New York was up 20% in shootings and homicides in the first half of 2015, following the national trend. But the NYPD is unique in the massive size of the department on both an absolute and per capita basis.
Police Commissioner William Bratton mobilized every guy on desk duty that he could get, and flooded the shooting zones with large numbers of officers that stopped what was a nascent spike, and we ended last year with a 6% increase in homicides."
Mac Donald adds that while the NYPD isn't necessarily engaging in “proactive policing,” their “command presence” is deterring crime.
While police Superintendent Eddie Johnson has been pushing for harsher sentences, Mac Donald says that when bills are proposed that would increase sentences for gun violence and repeat offenders, the “Black Caucus” often defeats them, claiming they'll have a “disparate impact on blacks.”
“The race politics in Chicago are extremely arcane,” claims Mac Donald, “and I would ultimately argue, self-defeating.”
Mac Donald concluded by noting that “the cops need to believe they'll be supported for engaging in proactive policing.” If they're not, she says, it's the law-abiding residents of the South Side and West Side that will pay the price.