Chicago finishes 2020 with 769 homicides as shootings spike

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A 41-year-old man was shot and killed early Friday morning in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood, marking the city's first homicide of 2021 and following a year of spiking crime rates there and around the nation. 

According to Chicago police data, the city recorded 769 homicides in 2020, a 55% increase over 2019. 

CRIME WAVE 2020: THESE CITIES SMASHED HOMICIDE RECORDS AMID NATIONWIDE CRIME SPIKE

The increase, reversing a three-year trend, is among the highest in city history, The Chicago Tribune reported Thursday.

Fatal shootings rose by 53%, with December shootings totaling 50, compared with just 19 a year earlier.

According to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office, 78% of the gun violence victims were Black. The county also reported a record 16,049 total deaths in 2020 — a huge jump largely due to coronavirus fatalities.

In May, Chicago experienced its deadliest Memorial Day weekend in five years, with 49 people shot — 10 of them fatally.

On May 31 alone, there were 18 homicides, more than any single day in memory, according to The Associated Press.

The increase in violent crime has been blamed on myriad factors, including the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, state and local restrictions, an unprecedented economic crisis, and the deaths of Black men and women at the hands of law enforcement. 

Just six days after the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man being detained by white police officers in Minneapolis, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city's 911 emergency center received 65,000 calls for service – 50,000 more than on a normal day.

Chicago police shell casing markers are seen on July 26, 2020, where a 37-year-old man riding a bicycle was fatally shot. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton 

"Frustration, anger, unfortunately some of that is playing out in violence," she said this week. "A lot of things that are manifestations of trauma and mental health challenges have been in full bloom."

Police Superintendent David Brown issued a statement saying that 2020 had been a "perfect storm" and that combatting violence and protecting the public is an "all-hands-on-deck effort." 

"The criminal justice ecosystem, however, was profoundly impacted and disrupted by the global coronavirus pandemic and the death of George Floyd," he said. "Our Chicago police 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."

Brown also noted that 79 officers were shot at in 2020, compared with 22 in the previous year. 

"Over the summer, we pivoted our crimefighting strategy to a citywide approach toward deploying resources to areas experiencing high levels of violence," he continued. "This strategic shift has had a positive impact on public safety and has decreased the pace of monthly murders that had accelerated during the first half of 2020."

Chicago has worked to positively transform chaotic neighborhoods with the creation of its first Office of Violence Reduction, $36 million in funding for community-driven strategies, and an alternative response program.

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Tensions have also boiled over in Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Detroit — cities that are all seeing a rise in homicides. 

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