Cook County saw more gun-related homicides and opioid-related deaths in 2020 than in any other year on record, authorities said.
The Cook County medical examiner’s office, which investigates and processes deaths in Chicago and many of its suburbs, announced Friday it closed out the year with the “grim” statistics of 970 homicides, 1,599 opioid overdose deaths and 8,192 COVID-19 related deaths.
Guns were involved in 875 of the homicides, breaking the previous record of 838 set in 1994.
Overall, the agency handled a record number of 16,049 deaths this year, shattering the past record of 10,654 deaths set in 1977. The average number is usually around 6,200 for the medical examiner’s office, which probes all suicides, homicides, accidental deaths and any others considered unusual or suspicious.
The 2020 numbers showed a disproportionate impact on people of color, with Black and Latino people making up 58% of all deaths and half of all COVID-19 deaths. Black people also accounted for 78% of the homicide victims and close to half of all opioid deaths.
Overall suicide rates didn’t rise in 2020, but the African-American community saw a dramatic increase, officials said. Of 432 Cook County suicides, 94 were of Black people, up from 57 in 2019.
The city alone saw a 50% increase in homicides, the Chicago Sun-Times previously reported. Chicago accounted for 722 of the 970 total homicides reported in the county, according to the medical examiner’s office.
In all, 89% of homicide victims were male. Seventy victims were under the age of 18, and 22 were under the age of 10.
The medical examiner’s office said the final opioid-related death count — which includes fatalities linked to drugs like heroin, fentanyl and pain killers — could actually end up topping 2,000 once pending toxicology reports on additional cases are finalized. Overdoses have been steadily increasing, up by nearly 1,000 compared to 2015 when only 647 opioid deaths were reported.