A report by the Chicago Police Department released on Sunday said homicides in the city soared to 762 in 2016, the most in 20 years, ABC News reports.
Chicago’s homicide figure is higher than New York and Los Angeles combined. It skyrocketed from 485 in 2015, which represents the largest spike in six decades.
According to the data, most of the fatal shootings were concentrated in five of the city’s 22 police districts. Those five districts are located in predominantly poor, African-American communities with gang activity. About 80 percent of the victims had gang ties or prior arrests.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, speaking at a news conference Sunday, pointed to several factors that have “emboldened” criminals.
Johnson said first there’s widespread mistrust and anger at the police over a video that a judge ordered the city to release in November 2015. It shows a White policeman gunning down Laquan McDonald, a Black teenager. The mishandling of the incident led to accusations of a police cover up and a federal probe into racial bias by law enforcement. The department has been on its heels ever since.
The superintendent also blamed Illinois’ gun laws, which he said are weak compared to other states. Johnson stated that gang members have no fear of carrying an illegal weapon.
Chicago’s criminal justice system is also at fault, Johnson added. “In Chicago, we just don’t have a deterrent to pick up a gun,” he said. “Any time a guy stealing a loaf of bread spends more time pre-trial in jail than a gun offender, something is wrong.”
The city has struggled to find solutions. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a plan to recruit 1,000 new officers for the department, with an emphasis on minority recruits. Johnson alluded to several initiatives at the news conference, including more street cameras.
However, there’s growing criticism that arrests have plummeted because officers are no longer proactive in dangerous neighborhoods. Johnson previously told the Associated Press that many of his officers fear becoming the next “viral video.”