Downtown shootings continue spike with 64% jump in 2022

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday said she’s “not happy about this weekend” after a spate of shootings in the area, noting that city officials need to “step up our efforts downtown.”

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The alleyway were a person was shot Sunday, May 1. The Nederlander Theatre later canceled its “Moulin Rouge!” performance.

The alleyway were a person was shot Sunday, May 1. The Nederlander Theatre later canceled its “Moulin Rouge!” performance.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Three high-profile shootings downtown this past weekend added to a spike in shootings this year in the city’s economic engine —an increase that follows disturbing trends from previous years.

The bloodshed includes a shooting on Sunday in which two people were hit by gunfire in an alley in the Chicago Theater District, including a stagehand for a performance that was later canceled for the evening; a teen fatally shot inside a Streeterville hotel; and a woman killed outside 10 Bowling Lounge in River North.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday said she’s “not happy about this weekend,” noting that city officials need to “step up our efforts downtown.”

“Particularly distressing is, again, the number of young people that seemingly are involved in acts of violence,” Lightfoot said at a news conference. “It’s clearly not acceptable, and that’s why we’ve got to keep doing, I think, the things that we know are working.”

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said the city has “seen some displacement issues. We’re starting to see increases in areas that we normally don’t have those increases.”

The increases have been significant in the Central and Near North police districts covering the Loop and River North, which have seen 23 homicide and shooting victims through April 30 of this year. That’s a 64% jump compared to the same time period in 2021, according to a Sun-Times analysis of police data.

The area had already seen a big rise in shooting and homicide victims over the past couple years. In 2021, there were 139 homicide and shooting victims, a 60% increase over the 87 victims in 2020 and a 167 % increase over the 52 in those districts in 2019.

To be sure, the Loop and River North are still far safer than many neighborhoods in the city, with a rate of about 1 victim per 10,000 residents so far this year, the Sun-Times analysis found. That is lower than the city’s overall rate of about 3 victims per 10,000 residents and significantly lower than 12-13 victims per 10,000 residents in some South and West Side neighborhoods that experience the highest levels of crime.

But a Sun-Times analysis last fall found that in the Central police district the total number of shootings and total shootings per 1,000 residents saw the largest increase of any police district in the city since 2019. The Near North district, which includes parts of River North and also Lincoln Park, saw a 120% increase, the second-highest rise in shootings in that time.

The spike in shootings in the heart of the city comes as the city announced Monday that shootings trended downward by 16% across the city so far this year — meaning the downtown area continues to head in the wrong direction.

Ald. Brendan Reilly (2nd), whose ward includes much of downtown including the Chicago Theatre District, didn’t return a request for comment.

Brown said police are increasing patrols in the area —as they are in other parts of the city.

“We are not going to be a part of treating one neighborhood differently than another based on whatever reasons,” Brown said. “All of these neighborhoods are important to us as the police department. We are adding resources not only to the downtown — we are adding to the downtown — but the CTA needs more resources and so does areas on the South Side and areas on the West Side.”

Michael Edwards, president and CEO of Chicago Loop Alliance, called Sunday’s shooting “unfortunate” but said “these isolated occurrences do not represent the average day or night for those of us who live, work and play in downtown Chicago.”

In a statement, Edwards said his group and others had already enlisted private officers to keep an eye on the area.

“The Chicago Loop Alliance is working vigilantly with our stakeholders and partners to address safety in the Loop,” he said. “We contract unarmed private security to patrol State Street overnight four days a week, in addition to our expanding Street Ambassadors program monitoring State Street seven days a week, providing a friendly, clean and safe environment to visitors, workers and residents.”

On Monday, the Theater District attempted to return to normal after the Sunday night performance of “Moulin Rouge!” at the Nederlander Theatre was canceled. Damara Anderson, a spokeswoman for Broadway in Chicago, said refunds were given to those with tickets to that performance but no other downtown productions were affected.

“All Broadway In Chicago performances, including ‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’ will perform as scheduled beginning Tuesday, May 3,” Anderson said in a statement.

While Lightfoot pointed to positive trends this year in some areas that had seen high levels of violence, she said the progress is “not good enough.”

“I’m not gonna rest,” she said. “And I know [Supt. Brown] and the entire [police department] shares my resolve that we’ve got to do more to give people confidence and make them feel safe because they are safe.”

Contributing: Andy Boyle

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