In a year marred by a deadly pandemic and rocked by civil unrest over policing, Chicago endured a level of violence in 2020 that reversed recent progress, with homicides increasing by more than 50 percent, reports the Chicago Tribune. Through Sunday, the city recorded 762 homicides this year, a 55 percent jump over the same period in 2019, when 491 people in the city were slain. The total number of shootings also was up sharply, rising 53 percent to 3,237 from 2,120. City leaders and experts say the trend likely was a byproduct of more than one factor. The coronavirus forced an economic shutdown and stay-at-home order, exacerbating economic woes in some neighborhoods and limiting social services. The high-profile killings of Black people by police officers prompted a national reckoning on race issues, and in some cases generated instability and increased distrust of police officers, eroding their ability to rely on community members for help.
“What worries me is just how much has changed in the past year and how bad it (got) this past summer,” said Princeton sociologist Patrick Sharkey, calling it a key time to find new strategies. “This is the moment. The trust in the old model has fallen substantially.” Mayor Lori Lightfoot acknowledged some communities have endured a particularly heavy loss of life from crime and the coronavirus, exacerbating existing troubles.
“It’s been a hard time,” Lightfoot said. “Frustration, anger, unfortunately some of that is playing out in violence. A lot of things that are manifestations of trauma and mental health challenges have been in full bloom.” Police superintendent David Brown said officers “faced an unprecedented set of circumstances in contending with a spike in violent crime, made even more difficult by having to contend with a health pandemic while facing extended periods of heightened civil unrest and looting.”