Shootings and homicides in Chicago down from historic highs of past years, but overall crime still up

Homicides have dropped 16% through July, and the number of people shot has fallen 20%.

SHARE Shootings and homicides in Chicago down from historic highs of past years, but overall crime still up

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown discusses the city’s latest crime numbers during a Monday news conference at the South Side YMCA.

Brian Rich | Sun-Times

Seven months after Chicago ended its deadliest year in decades, the latest police data shows shootings and homicides are significantly down, although overall crime is up.

Homicides have dropped 16% through July, down to 379 from 452 at the same point last year, according to the Chicago Police Department. The number of people shot has fallen 20%, down to 1,969 from 2,455 during the same period last year.

“We know our work is far from over,” Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said during a news conference Monday at the South Side YMCA. “Our goals are safe neighborhoods and lasting peace.”

The city saw 67 homicides in July, down nearly 38% from the 108 recorded during the same month last year when violence reached historic levels. The number of shooting victims fell 28% from last July, down to 447 from 595.

The drop in the most serious violent crimes comes after police began flooding the city’s 15 most dangerous communities with more officers and other resources, including help with jobs, housing and health.

So far this year, all but one of those communities has seen a decline in gunshot victims, according to data analyzed by the Sun-Times.

In 55 police beats that cover many of those communities — and account for more than half of the city’s gun violence — homicides have fallen nearly 26% and shootings have dropped 33%, according to figures provided by the department.

Overall crime up 35%

With crime emerging as the key issue heading into next year’s mayoral election, Brown and Mayor Lori Lightfoot have pointed to the drop in shootings and homicides as proof the administration is addressing a critical concern.

But those numbers are still far higher than 2019, when Lightfoot took office and before the pandemic hit.

The police department’s release did not provide overall crime numbers, but data posted last week showed a 35% increase in reported crimes this year. Index crimes, which include some of the most serious offenses, have increased 26% this year, the data shows.

Asked how the department plans to address crimes that have risen significantly — including robberies, burglaries and car thefts — Brown said police officials are “doing a deeper dive into our precision deployments” to focus on those offenses.

“Our work is never done,” he said.

He acknowledged it’s a “challenging proposition” to add more resources to the CTA and the downtown area, where crime has been rising, as areas long feeling the brunt of gun violence also grapple with an increase in other crimes.

Downtown has presented a particular challenge for the superintendent and the mayor. Murders and shootings are up sharply in the two police districts that cover downtown, but motor vehicle thefts and other thefts are up just as steeply.

Dealing with a surge in carjackings

To better respond to carjackings, which have surged in recent years, the superintendent said the mayor “found the money for two additional helicopters” — though he pushed for even more to build a fleet on par with other major cities. The city currently has two helicopters.

He once again cast blame on young people for driving the spike in carjackings. Police data shows that 55% of the 157 carjacking arrests this year involved a minor. But that number is skewed because many carjackings do not result in arrests.

Brown complained there is a “really fast revolving door in and out of the juvenile court system,” and he called for additional resources to help young people who have been arrested and their families. At the same time, he took a hard-line stance and threatened to hold carjacking suspects accountable regardless of their age.

Yet Brown insisted the answer to the city’s crime problem wasn’t simply locking up more people.

Referring to a Sun-Times investigation that found arrests and other measures of police activity have plummeted, he said “mass incarceration and stop-and-frisk was a failure” throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He said community engagement is the real way to reduce crime.

“If we go back to that for a short-term fix,” he said, “that likely still won’t reduce violence because we’re in a gun violence epidemic in this country. We’re awash in guns.”

The number of firearms recovered in Chicago has spiked in recent years along with gun violence.

In 2020, through July, a total of 5,671 firearms had been pulled off the street. That number jumped to 7,303 for the same time last year and to 7,369 through this July.

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