For months we’ve been writing about the staggering rise of violence in Chicago. As the year has worn on, the grim milestones have added up: the deadliest month in 23 years, the deadliest day in 13 years, 4,300 people shot…the list goes on and on. With five days left in 2016, official police records indicate that homicides in Chicago surged 57% YoY and shootings spiked 46%. To put those numbers into perspective, Chicago recorded over 20% more murders in 2016 than New York and Los Angeles combined, despite having a fraction of the population. Per the Chicago Tribune:
Through Dec. 26, 754 people were slain in Chicago compared with 480 during the same period last year, an increase of 57 percent, according to official Police Department statistics. The last time Chicago tallied a similar number of killings was in 1997, when 761 people were slain. Shooting incidents also jumped by 46 percent this year to 3,512 from 2,398, the statistics show.
What’s more, crimes went up by double digits in nearly every major category, including criminal sexual assaults, robberies and thefts.
The city’s homicides outpaced New York City and Los Angeles combined, even though their populations far exceed Chicago’s 2.7 million people. According to official statistics through Dec. 18, the most recent publicly available, New York and Los Angeles had a combined 613 homicides, fewer than Chicago’s total. In addition, there were a combined 2,306 shooting victims in the two cities, about half of Chicago’s total.
The scale of the YoY surge in violence is unprecedented going back to 1960 and puts the city on track for its most violent year in nearly two decades.
A countless number of studies have been conducted in attempt to explain the sudden rise in violence. Studies have focused on everything from weather patterns to declines in finances for social services to changes in police response though none could be definitively linked to the sudden and dramatic increase. And while the liberal elites of our nation’s most prestigious universities would like for you to believe that stricter gun laws would eradicate violence, as we’ve pointed out before, Chicago already has the toughest gun laws in the country (see “Soaring Chicago Gun Violence Amid ‘Toughest Gun Laws’ Crushes Clinton Narrative For More ‘Controls’“).
In a recent interview at police headquarters, Superintendent Eddie Johnson and his second-in-command, First Deputy Superintendent Kevin Navarro, speculated on the rise in homicides. They blamed, in part, a perceived willingness by criminals to settle disputes with guns, and what they say is a failure on the part of the justice system to hold them accountable.
“We used to respond to gang fights in progress … now we respond to shots fired,” Navarro said. “People fought. Now everyone picks up the gun. Just like that.”
At lease one “gang expert” blames the dissolution of the organized gangs on the 90’s that turned “a culture of obedience” into “a culture of autonomy.”
Gang expert John Hagedorn noted that by the late 1990s, the organized gang wars for power and dominance were starting to become less commonplace. Gang leaders went to jail. The nationwide crack epidemic was coming to an end, causing the gangs to make less money in narcotics than before, he said. Chicago’s sprawling public housing complexes were also being torn down, Hagedorn noted, sending gang members to different parts of the city where other gangs were in control.
All of these elements shifted the nature of the city’s gangs from “a culture of obedience” to “a culture of autonomy,” he said.
“Kids were off on their own. The nature of the violence swings,” said Hagedorn, a professor of criminology, law and justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Rather than violent orders from the top … violence today is local between sects and it’s spontaneous, not structured. And there’s nobody around to control it.”
But, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson attributes the rise in violence to a growing level of “disrespect” for the police…something he says is intensified by the mainstream media’s disdain for law enforcement officials.
Johnson, in the recent interview, said negative attitudes toward the police began to grow in 2014 when a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Mo. The McDonald shooting intensified that distrust and anger in Chicago.
These incidents diminished the respect that police once had, emboldening criminals, Johnson said.
“The level of disrespect I see for police now, I’ve never seen it like this in 28 years,” he said. “The willingness of the bad guy to engage a police officer, I’ve never, it’s just different. … Before, they didn’t engage the police like they do now.”
“Now, the police are perceived as the bad guy, and they’re not given the benefit of the doubt anymore,” Johnson said. “Back then in ’98, it was the total reverse. … Don’t think that the bad guy doesn’t look at what’s (happening) on CNN and say, ‘Oh, they’re really giving it to the police. Now is my time to shine.'”
Indeed, officers have told the Tribune that morale was lower this year. Officers described taking a more cautious approach to their work, concerned they could end up in a viral video, sued or fired.
Of course, this “Ferguson Effect” or “legal cynicism” that leads to complete disrespect for law enforcement is something we’ve highlighted frequently this year (see “Milwaukee Homicides Soar – What Is Going On In the Murderous Midwest?“). And while the mainstream media is partially to blame for its intentional efforts to delegitimize police authority, comments like the ones below from our nation’s commander-in-chief probably don’t help either.
September 2014 Comments at the Congressional Black Caucus Awards Dinner – “Too many young men of color feel targeted by law enforcement, guilty of walking while black, or driving while black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness. We know that, statistically, in everything from enforcing drug policy to applying the death penalty to pulling people over, there are significant racial disparities.”
November 2014 Comments Regarding Ferguson grand jury decision – “The law too often feels like it’s being applied in a discriminatory fashion….Communities of color aren’t just making these problems up….These are real issues. And we have to lift them up and not deny them or try to tamp them down.”
May 2015 Comments at Lehman College – The catalyst of those protests were the tragic deaths of young men and a feeling that law is not always applied evenly in this country. In too many places in this country, black boys and black men, Latino boys, Latino men, they experience being treated differently by law enforcement — in stops and in arrests, and in charges and incarcerations. The statistics are clear, up and down the criminal justice system; there’s no dispute.
Of course, President-elect Trump has been clear in his steadfast support of the nation’s police officers but only time will tell if “tough talk” can be converted into safer streets.
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