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Chicago hits highest homicide rate in 26 years in 2021

Chicago police officers (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
January 03, 2022

Chicago saw its deadliest year in a quarter-century in 2021, racking up hundreds of homicides and thousands of shooting incidents, data from the Cook County medical examiner’s office revealed last week.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the city had 820 homicides in 2021, which is the most since 1995 when 828 homicides occurred. The city also saw 4,390 shooting incidents last year, increasing 8 percent from 2020 and a staggering 68 percent from 2019.

“We all know this has been a challenging year here in the city of Chicago,” Police Supt. David Brown said at a news conference, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “Too many families are reeling from the loss of loved ones due to senseless gun violence.”

“Too many residents are dealing with the ripple effects of this trauma due to crime in our community,” he added.

In response to the record-breaking year of crime, Brown said he plans to add 200 violent crime detectives to the department during the first quarter of 2022.

The CPD has also lost hundreds of police officers over the last two years, and Brown said he plans to recruit new officers this year. The department’s goal is 14,000 applicants, the Times reported.

“There will be more officers on the street, not just in patrol cars or behind desks, to interact with all Chicagoans,” Brown vowed. “We want to build on positive interactions between the community and law enforcement.”

Brown also said that the department seized over 12,000 guns and made 5,596 gun arrests in 2021.

Other cities across the United States also saw sharp increases in violent crime. In Oakland, California, 134 people died by homicide in 2021, the highest number since 148 people were killed in 2006, the Mercury News reported.

“There’s so many dimensions to the way the pandemic may be behind what we’re seeing,” said Jonathan Simon, a UC Berkeley professor of criminal justice. “One is just the level of stress it’s putting on really everybody. And we’re seeing people respond to that stress with what you could say is risky behavior.”

New Orleans, Louisiana, saw a rise in homicides for the second year in a row, including 218 killings in 2021, police department officials said, according to nola.com. It was the first time in 15 years that the city recorded over 200 murders.

In Minneapolis, the 96th homicide was recorded in the final days of 2021, just one shy of the 1995 record, according to the Star Tribune.   

“This is a national increase,” said Ames Grawert, senior counsel for the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. “This is not about any single city. This is not about any single policy.”