Chicago nears 700 homicides in 2020, milestone reached just 1 other time since 1998

Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown had challenged CPD to keep annual murder total under 300
CHICAGO -- Chicago is on pace to pass 700 homicides this year as the city faces a 50% increase in gun violence from a year ago.

Since 1998, it's a milestone reached only one other time, in 2016.

So far, Chicago has more murders this year than during the same period in 2016 - Chicago's most violent year in recent memory.

As of Wednesday evening, 693 deaths in Chicago have been ruled homicides, according to a Sun-Times analysis of Cook County medical examiner's office data. The city had 680 murders by this time in 2016, according to Chicago Police Department statistics.

In April, CPD Supt. David Brown challenged his department to keep the annual murder total under 300 - a number the city hasn't been under in 60 years. He likened the challenge to President John F. Kennedy's goal to put a man on the moon.

At the time, Brown said he wanted Chicago to "become the safest big city in the country, bar none. Others might be afraid to speak of such lofty goals for fear of falling short."

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But even the mid-year homicide total in 2020 outpaces the totals in years past. The Sun-Times counted 503 homicides in all of 2019; 550 in 2018; and 664 in 2017.

Chicago logged 781 homicides in all of 2016.

Shootings are also up 53% compared with last year, but still 9% lower than they were in 2016, according to CPD statistics. Through Nov. 15 this year, the city saw 2,898 shooting incidents, nearly 1,000 more shootings than during the same time in 2019.

This year, Chicago saw its most violent day in 60 years, with 18 murders recorded on May 31.

Of this year's 693 murders, Chicago police have made 165 arrests in connection to murders this year, according to department data.

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The medical examiner's office, which tracks homicides by the date of death instead of the time of injury, has recorded 715 homicides so far in 2020. That number includes police-involved shootings and other self-defense shootings that the Sun-Times' count omits.

For the last four years, CPD reported consistent drops in gun violence. In 2017, the FBI said Chicago's drop in murders accounted for more than half of a national decline in killings.

But murders in the city have risen steadily all year -- even before the pandemic forced many people out of work or into working from home.

Brown has blamed the rise in crime on a justice system that lets offenders out too soon.

"At the end of the day, our endgame strategy is to arrest violent felons, but if violent felons are getting right out of jail, we need cooperation and collaboration with other partners within the criminal justice system," Brown said in June after a Father's Day weekend that saw more than 100 people shot.

Despite rising gun violence, police say other crime has decreased in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the city. Overall crime fell 7% during the first 10 months of 2020 compared with the same time last year, the department said. The largest reduction in crime was theft, which dropped 27% from last year.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire - Copyright Chicago Sun-Times 2020.)

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