CHICAGO – In a year of relentless violence, Chicago has hit another gruesome milestone, exceeding 700 homicides on Wednesday for the first time in nearly two decades, according to official Police Department records.
It was not immediately clear which incident put the city at 701 homicides. At some point Wednesday, an April death was ruled a homicide. And then a fatal shooting took place about 8 p.m. in the South Shore neighborhood, said Frank Giancamilli, a police spokesman.
The year got off to a violent start with 50 homicides in January and rarely let up even after the end of the summer — the peak season for shootings.
The numbers are off the charts. The 701 homicides through Wednesday marked a nearly 56 percent jump from the 450 killings a year earlier. With one month still to go, that represents the most homicides since 704 in 1998.
Police Department statistics do not include killings on area expressways, police-involved shootings, other justifiable homicides or death investigations that could later be reclassified as homicides. And police said a fatal shooting happened early Thursday, the first day of December, but an autopsy hasn’t confirmed that the death is a homicide.
Nearly 4,050 people have been shot, a 50 percent jump from 2,699 victims a year earlier, according to the department statistics.
The surge in violence has come at a time of upheaval for the Police Department amid an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Justice Department in the fallout over the video showing the fatal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald by an officer.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who was a surprise appointment in March after the city’s top cop was fired over the handling of the McDonald shooting, said his department is doing all it can to combat violence rooted in poverty and hopelessness.
On Tuesday, following a speech to the Union League Club, Johnson called this year’s homicide totals “unacceptable,” blaming what he called a “small subsection of citizens” for the violence.