CHICAGO (SUN TIMES MEDIA WIRE) - The murder total in Chicago passed 400 with more than a week left in July, and the month ended with the city on pace to exceed the number of killings in 2016.
The city opened 2017 slightly behind the rate of killings in 2016, a year the city finished with 781 homicides, the first time in nearly 20 years that the city had logged more than 700 murders, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
As of 11 p.m. Monday, the citywide homicide total was 409, with 74 killed in July. In 2016, the city did not reach 400 killings until Aug. 1.
The murders were not evenly distributed across the city, with the South and West Side neighborhoods of Austin and Englewood seeing the largest number of slayings.
Chicago is not alone among American cities in seeing an increase in bloodshed so far this year, said Jeff Asher, a crime statistician based in New Orleans. Asher noted a 4 percent increase in murders in 62 cities with more than 250,000 residents, in a post on FiveThirtyEight.com.
There are positive signs even in “jarring” figures on violence in Chicago, Asher said.
Shootings are down 13 percent in Chicago so far this year, according to CPD statistics, Asher said, meaning that while more people are dying of their wounds, fewer people are being shot.
“Gun violence is still persistently high in Chicago, relative to where it was two years ago,” Asher told the Sun-Times. “But I look at shootings as a better metric overall of violence in the city, where murder [statistics] have some factor of randomness and luck.
“At some point, you will see some regression to the [arithmetic] mean.”
And nationally, murder rates have risen in dozens of cities during the last two years, according to data compiled by John Jay College of Criminal Justice researcher Peter Moskos.
Among 43 of the nation’s largest cities, all but three recorded increases in the number of murders from 2014 to 2016, though the nearly 80 percent spike in Chicago is the sixth-largest jump in the nation during that span. Midwestern neighbors Milwaukee (68 percent), St. Louis (18 percent) and Cleveland (33 percent) — all saw increases, according to Moskos’ statistics. All three cities also have higher murder rates than Chicago, calculated as the number of killings per 100,000 residents.
Murder totals across the nation also remain significantly lower than during the 1980s and 1990s, Asher noted, and it is not clear that Chicago, or the U.S., is at the start of a long-term, upward trend.
“When you compare gun violence to where it was in the ’80s and ’90s, it’s down 4- to 50 percent,” Asher said.