2016 will be a year to remember for Chicago. The high point for many Chicagoans will be the World Series victory by the Cubs – their first championship in more than 100 years. But the city also hit a low point in 2016, as the homicide count grew to 762 before the calendar turned.
762 homicides is problematic for a number of reasons. That number means the city averaged more than two homicides a day for an entire year. That number represents the most killings the city has seen in a calendar year in two decades. That number is more than the number of homicides in New York City and Los Angeles, combined.
Shootings Spike In 2016
According to the data, Chicago saw roughly 1,100 more shooting incidents in 2016 than it did a year prior. Not surprisingly, the homicide total grew as well, as the 762 homicides represented a huge spike from 2015 when there were 485 reported homicides. Police said a part of the problem is the influx of illegal weapons into the city, as police seized 20 percent more illegal firearms in 2016 than in 2015.
The bulk of the shootings are focused in five neighborhoods in the city’s South and West sides, where gang violence often turns deadly. More than 80 percent of the victims shot in these areas had previously been identified by police as more susceptible targets due to their gang affiliation or past arrests.
Why The Increase?
City officials are trying to explain what caused the spike in shootings in 2016, and while they have a few theories, they seem to be lacking in solutions to the problem. Some say the shootings were spurred by distrust in authority due to the release of a dashcam video showing an officer fatally shooting a 17-year-old 16 times. Others say there’s a perception that the police force is weakened, which means criminals feel more emboldened, while others blame the influx of illegal weapons from other cities and states.
What’s clear is that the city certainly has a crisis on its hands, and city officials need to make gun violence a priority in 2017. Parents shouldn’t have to fear for their child’s life every time they step out of the door. Lawmakers need to work with city officials to develop a strategy to help push youth away from gangs and towards education and employment. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it in the long run.