Chicago finished last year with a downturn in shootings and homicides, but 2019 is threatening to reverse whatever progress was made in the last months of 2018, and with the weather turning warmer, it seems Chicagoans are determined to have a bloody summer.
Over the weekend, Chicago saw its most violent days and nights so far this year. A total of 52 people were shot between Friday night and Sunday night. Ten of those victims were killed, according to NBC News.
Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson called the incidents part of a “despicable level of violence,” and promised targeted patrols in neighborhoods on the south and west side where violence has become a regular part of everyday life, thanks to increases in gang activity.
Johnson did note that police likely prevented a bloodier couple of days; over the course of the weekend, officers confiscated approximately 90 firearms, “nearly double the amount of guns that we take in during a particular weekend.” Nearly 20 people were arrested on firearms charges alone.
Chicago had hoped for an immediate downward trend, as Lori Lightfoot took over the mayor’s office from Rahm Emanuel, who often found himself incapable of handling such intense levels of violence, but as Lightfoot herself pointed out last week, handling the gang warfare taking place on the city’s south and west sides will take time and a lot of police and community cooperation.
Chicago is not the country’s most violent city — by far. In fact, it doesn’t even crack the top ten most dangerous cities in America according to USA Today and the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. Chicago ranks well behind cities like St. Louis, Missouri; Detroit, Michigan; Baltimore, Maryland; and Memphis, Tennessee. In fact, the city is currently listed as the 21st most violent, based on per capita homicides and the violent crime rate.
Shootings in the city fell 13% in the first few months of 2019 and the city has added 1,000 new officers to the Chicago Police Department’s patrol section. Year-to-date, the city has seen around 970 shootings total, down a bit from last year. Around 200 of those shootings were eventually ruled homicides.
But as this weekend demonstrates, there’s a deeper concern about how violence in Chicago has become a way of life, and how little police make a difference as compared to a year ago.
According to Johnson, gang members have been “emboldened” and care little for police presence. In one case, over the weekend, a CPD commander was “only a half-block away” when a shooter opened fire in the city’s Austin neighborhood. Targeted patrols do make a difference, but there are limitations, as CPD saw earlier this year when an officer and his partner were surrounded and taunted until they released an offender who’d been captured after a foot chase.
The incident was captured on video and the men who incited the crowd were eventually arrested, but not until after the original offender was released and the two officers were forced to flee the scene.
With warmer weather, the violence is also creeping into neighborhoods that border Chicago’s tourist attractions. A shooting occurred near Navy Pier recently, and two men were shot over the weekend near Northwestern University’s campus, on the northern edge of the city near a handful of tony suburbs.