Chicago Is On Pace To Have Its Bloodiest Year In Two Decades

As the city's police department struggles, crime rates are at historic highs

A man lights a candle in memorial of his murdered sister and niece — (Scott Olson)
Apr 01, 2016 at 2:44 PM ET

Just three months into 2016, Chicago is on track to have the most deadly year in two decades. The Chicago Tribune found that as of Wednesday, there had already been 135 homicides on record—an average of 1.5 per day—making 2016 the worst first quarter of the year since 1999. This is an 84 percent increase in homicides from this time last year.

Among the most recently deceased are a 31-year-old father of three, a local high school student, and a recent college enrollee expecting his second son. When the city experienced zero homicides on Easter Sunday, one Catholic reverend called the rarity an “amazing gift.”

While measuring year-to-year shooting comparisons for homicides has some statistical shortcomings, the numbers show a stark difference from recent years, and residents are worried about what the summer will bring given the known correlation between warm weather and violence. As of last week, rates of all major crimes had increased from 2015, with shootings among them. “Unless something radical takes place, it’s going to be a bloodbath this summer,” a Chicago pastor told the New York Times.

The alarming data comes to light as the Chicago Police Department faces increased scrutiny. The U.S. Justice Department is currently in the midst of an investigation into the Chicago Police Department following the police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The most recent police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, was fired from the force late last year, along with several other high-ranking officers. Since then, mayor Rahm Emanuel has angered Chicago residents by refusing to appoint suggested replacements chosen by a board of citizens.

The New York Times found that Chicago police officers may be “backing off” from the city’s populace, conducting 7.5 times fewer stops of suspicious persons so far this year than by this time last year, potentially tied to the American Civil Liberties Union’s recent inquiries into racial profiling. Increased gang activities and divisions may also play a role in the escalating violence.