Chicago has seen a 43% rise in killings so far this year vs. 2019, but that’s not the full picture

The head of the University of Chicago Crime Lab says last year was an anomaly, with bitter cold tending to keep people inside more, skewing the year-to-year comparison.

SHARE Chicago has seen a 43% rise in killings so far this year vs. 2019, but that’s not the full picture
Diviris Garfeed is among those killed in Chicago this year in what’s been a rise in shootings and killings.

Diviris Garfeed is among those killed in Chicago this year in what’s been a rise in shootings and killings.

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When Diviris Garfeed was shot to death on a sidewalk in Humboldt Park, he became another casualty in what’s been a rise in violence in Chicago this year — with a 43% increase in the number of killings so far in 2020 compared with 2019.

Especially hard hit have been neighborhoods on the West Side and South Side.

The police say Garfeed, 30, was selling marijuana in the 1000 block of North Springfield Avenue on the West Side on March 2 when a car drove up and a passenger shot him in the head with a 9mm handgun as Garfeed’s friends ran.

Julius Thomas III, 20, was charged with murder. Thomas, identified by the police as gang member, was arrested after he tried to sell the murder weapon on Facebook, saying it had “bodies on it,” prosecutors say.

Garfeed is one of three people killed so far this year in the Chicago Police Department’s Beat 1112, a 40-block area in the Harrison police district on the West Side. Seven others have been wounded by gunfire in Beat 1112, one of the most violent beats in Chicago, police records show.

Citywide, the number of people who have been shot — killed or wounded — has risen by 36 percent, according to the police department.

Chicago Police Department statistics show a rise in violent crime this year.

Chicago Police Department statistics show a rise in violent crime this year.

Frank Main / Chicago Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and interim police Supt. Charlie Beck have been scrambling for answers. Last month, Lightfoot met with Beck and his commanders after Chicago experienced its deadliest weekend in 18 years. They talked about strategies to ease the violence, but the murder rate has kept rising.

No one knows why for certain. The police department is asking the University of Chicago Crime Lab to analyze the rise in violent crime.

Some rank-and-file officers say a massive reorganization of the department that Beck announced in late January has helped feed the violence, leaving gaps in leadership as commanders get familiar with new roles and cops figure out what the changes mean for them.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said officials believe the reorganization, which places detectives and organized-crime investigators under the control of commanders in individual police districts throughout the city rather than under broader, area-wide commands, will “help us get a handle on this crime.”

The police have been stopping more people on the street and in cars than last year, according to department statistics that also show they have been arresting more people on gun-possession charges, though gun recoveries are down.

“Officers are certainly out there doing police work,” Guglielmi said. “The continuing increase [in violence] is something we have a lot of concern about.”

Roseanna Ander, director of the U. of C. Crime Lab, said the three-month rise in violence compared to last year needs to be seen in light of last year’s especially cold winter, an anomaly in which people tended to stay inside more often.

“We’re comparing ourselves to a pretty tough benchmark,” Ander said.

It’s still unclear what impact the outbreak of the coronavirus will have on crime, but anti-violence groups such as UCAN on the West Side have scaled back their programs. Adrienne Johnson, vice president of violence intervention and prevention services for UCAN, said the organization has canceled its public events and is distributing literature about health practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But fear of the virus isn’t keeping people from gathering to mourn the victims of the recent gun violence. Dozens of people showed up for a nighttime street memorial for Garfeed, who was known by the nickname Choog.

Friends signed posters plastered with photos of Garfeed and his family. People held candles. And they released helium-filled balloons into the sky.

Mourners for Diviris Garfeed hold balloons at a sidewalk memorial.

Mourners for Diviris Garfeed hold balloons at a sidewalk memorial.

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