CHICAGO (WLS) -- New data from the FBI show that for the first time in four years, violent crime across the country went up last year.
In Chicago, from 2019 to 2020, homicides jumped by more than 50%, according to the bureau.
Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown talked about those numbers Monday and what's causing it.
The city's top cop spoke at the City Club, putting much of the blame for Chicago's gun violence on the illicit drug trade.
"Gangs fighting over turf are destroying lives and communities, killing innocent children, young people and adults," Brown said.
City-data shows that in 2020, there were 772 homicides. That number is up 56% from the year before when there were 496.
"This is a massive crisis facing our city and cities across the country. I think the FBI data really shows that it's -- we're not experiencing a national crime surge, we're experiencing a very specific increase in homicides and shootings," said Roseanna Ander, Ex. Dir. University of Chicago Crime Lab
Both Ander and Brown said the surge in homicides is driven by many factors, including the societal inequities highlighted by the pandemic, as well as the social justice anger and anxiety sparked by the killing of George Floyd.
"I think, arguably from a policing standpoint, we make the point that there's too many illegally possessed guns in the wrong hands," Brown said.
So far this year, Chicago is reporting 597 homicides, which is about on pace with last year, however, a new policing strategy is providing some hope.
The superintendent did note that the city's holistic approach to fighting crime, which was piloted in 15 police beats this summer, resulted in a 23% drop in murders. He added that he would like to see that approach expanded.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot defended her police superintendent, pointing out the challenges facing police.
"It has been a very tough time for the Chicago Police Department and these last two summers, in particular, have been brutal -- brutally difficult to them. There's been an extraordinary number of killings and shootings," Lightfoot said.
Chicago is not alone. The FBI reported that nationally, homicides were up 30% last year.