Chicago sees bloodiest month for homicides in 20 years

The carnage on Chicago's streets continued its record-setting pace in August with a body count of 90 – the bloodiest single month in 20 years.

Meanwhile, the city has already seen the number of killings surpass all of last year with four months left to go.

Chicago Tribune:

Through the first eight months of the year, the city recorded 472 homicides, 150 more than a year earlier and just one shy of the total for all of 2015, according to official Police Department statistics. The eight-month toll marked the most killings in Chicago since 488 people were slain through August 1997.

This August alone ended with 90 homicides, the deadliest single month since July 1993 when 99 were killed.

Asked during a brief telephone interview Wednesday what the department could do better to stem the violence, police Superintendent Eddie Johnson pointed to seizures of illegal guns closing in on 6,000 so far this year. Johnson, who again blamed the proliferation of guns and lenient sentencing laws for much of the mayhem, is pushing for lawmakers in Springfield to craft legislation calling for stiffer sentences for repeat gun offenders.

"These men and women are working their tails off out here," Johnson said of officers. "And I'll tell you this, it's frustrating for them to arrest a guy on Friday for an illegal gun and then next Thursday they see this guy right back out on the street with another illegal gun."

Even at 472 homicides for the first eight months, the Police Department's statistics do not include killings on area expressways, those that are labeled justifiable homicides and death investigations that could later be reclassified as homicides.

"These men and women are working their tails off out here," Johnson said of officers. "And I'll tell you this, it's frustrating for them to arrest a guy on Friday for an illegal gun and then next Thursday they see this guy right back out on the street with another illegal gun."

Even at 472 homicides for the first eight months, the Police Department's statistics do not include killings on area expressways, those that are labeled justifiable homicides and death investigations that could later be reclassified as homicides.

While the chief of police is blaming the proliferation of guns, the head of the Chicago police union offers a different take:

The Police Department has been under fire since November with the court-ordered release of a video showing Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times, killing him. The fallout has led to a U.S. Justice Department probe and a proposal just this week by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to replace the city's much-maligned police accountability system.

For months, FOP President Dean Angelo Sr. has decried the treatment officers have been enduring on the job. He said officers are worried that if they are as aggressive as they once were, they could end up in viral internet videos, fired or sued.

The Ferguson Effect in full force.  But the Ferguson Effect is not the entire explanation for what is going on in Chicago.  Cuts in the number of officers in recent years have simply meant fewer bodies on the streets.  That trend is reversing, but it will take several years before the police force recovers. 

Also, Chicago, being centrally located, has become the regional headquarters for several national gangs and an important outpost for international cartels.  The conflicts aren't just local turf wars they are also manifestations of rivalries among the cartels.  This, any big-city American police department is ill equipped to handle.

Chicago has already seen more murders this year than New York and Los Angeles combined.  If there is to be a turnaround, there must be a change in the relationship between the police and the communities they serve.  It will be a slow process, as trust has been destroyed with several recent high-profile police shootings.  But sheer survival for residents may be the catalyst for change.

The carnage on Chicago's streets continued its record-setting pace in August with a body count of 90 – the bloodiest single month in 20 years.

Meanwhile, the city has already seen the number of killings surpass all of last year with four months left to go.

Chicago Tribune:

Through the first eight months of the year, the city recorded 472 homicides, 150 more than a year earlier and just one shy of the total for all of 2015, according to official Police Department statistics. The eight-month toll marked the most killings in Chicago since 488 people were slain through August 1997.

This August alone ended with 90 homicides, the deadliest single month since July 1993 when 99 were killed.

Asked during a brief telephone interview Wednesday what the department could do better to stem the violence, police Superintendent Eddie Johnson pointed to seizures of illegal guns closing in on 6,000 so far this year. Johnson, who again blamed the proliferation of guns and lenient sentencing laws for much of the mayhem, is pushing for lawmakers in Springfield to craft legislation calling for stiffer sentences for repeat gun offenders.

"These men and women are working their tails off out here," Johnson said of officers. "And I'll tell you this, it's frustrating for them to arrest a guy on Friday for an illegal gun and then next Thursday they see this guy right back out on the street with another illegal gun."

Even at 472 homicides for the first eight months, the Police Department's statistics do not include killings on area expressways, those that are labeled justifiable homicides and death investigations that could later be reclassified as homicides.

"These men and women are working their tails off out here," Johnson said of officers. "And I'll tell you this, it's frustrating for them to arrest a guy on Friday for an illegal gun and then next Thursday they see this guy right back out on the street with another illegal gun."

Even at 472 homicides for the first eight months, the Police Department's statistics do not include killings on area expressways, those that are labeled justifiable homicides and death investigations that could later be reclassified as homicides.

While the chief of police is blaming the proliferation of guns, the head of the Chicago police union offers a different take:

The Police Department has been under fire since November with the court-ordered release of a video showing Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times, killing him. The fallout has led to a U.S. Justice Department probe and a proposal just this week by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to replace the city's much-maligned police accountability system.

For months, FOP President Dean Angelo Sr. has decried the treatment officers have been enduring on the job. He said officers are worried that if they are as aggressive as they once were, they could end up in viral internet videos, fired or sued.

The Ferguson Effect in full force.  But the Ferguson Effect is not the entire explanation for what is going on in Chicago.  Cuts in the number of officers in recent years have simply meant fewer bodies on the streets.  That trend is reversing, but it will take several years before the police force recovers. 

Also, Chicago, being centrally located, has become the regional headquarters for several national gangs and an important outpost for international cartels.  The conflicts aren't just local turf wars they are also manifestations of rivalries among the cartels.  This, any big-city American police department is ill equipped to handle.

Chicago has already seen more murders this year than New York and Los Angeles combined.  If there is to be a turnaround, there must be a change in the relationship between the police and the communities they serve.  It will be a slow process, as trust has been destroyed with several recent high-profile police shootings.  But sheer survival for residents may be the catalyst for change.