Chicago Has its Deadliest Month in Two Decades

CHICAGO — In a city wrestling with a rise in gun violence and turmoil in its police department, August seemed like the longest month. By midnight on Wednesday, 90 murders had occurred in August alone, making it the deadliest month in Chicago in about 20 years.

Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, has experienced more homicides this year than the bigger cities of Los Angeles and New York — combined.

The number of deaths here this year, 471, is about 50 percent higher than the same period a year earlier. Nonfatal shootings have risen at a similar rate. More than 2,300 shootings have taken place so far this year, mostly on the South and West Sides and most of them involving African-Americans.

The daily counts of the dead and wounded have grown dizzying. Among this summer’s victims were a 6-year-old girl who was wounded near her house; a 10-year-old whose twin held his hand as he waited for help; and Nykea Aldridge, a young mother and the cousin of N.B.A. star Dwyane Wade, who was killed while pushing a baby stroller.

The surge of violence comes at a trying time. The Justice Department is investigating the practices of the Chicago Police Department amid a crisis over police conduct and discipline and over distrust of officers, especially among African-Americans who make up one-third of the city’s residents. With the death toll mounting toward 500 and the city’s violence fast becoming a regular topic of Donald J. Trump’s campaign, many here seemed to be grasping for explanations of August’s particular level of bloodshed and for new solutions.

The activist priest

At a protest outside his church on the South Side on Wednesday night, the Rev. Michael Pfleger called on Gov. Bruce Rauner of Illinois to declare “a state of emergency” as a way to bring federal funds to aid the city.

Lying on a street beside others, Father Pfleger called out: “We’re tired of the blood. We’re tired of the tears. We need peace. We need help. State of emergency!”

The governor

Asked by reporters about the possibility of a state of emergency for the city’s violence, Mr. Rauner called it “terrible” but said he opposed deploying the National Guard:

“If that means bringing in the National Guard, if that’s what — some people have said, ‘Bring in the National Guard’ — we’ve discussed that. We’ve analyzed it. We’ve discussed it with the National Guard. We’ve talked about it with national leaders. We’ve talked about it with community leaders. We’ve talked with police officers about it. No thoughtful leader thinks that’s a good idea or would really provide a solution. In fact, it may exacerbate other problems. Nobody thinks that’s a good idea.”

Chicago’s police superintendent

In an interview on Wednesday, the police superintendent, Eddie Johnson, noted that the majority of shootings were happening in a handful of police districts on the West and South Sides.

“It’s not the entire city that’s under siege from gun violence, but small areas,” he said, adding that 85 percent of those involved in the violence this year had been on a police list of those most likely to commit violence or to be victims of it based on factors like previous arrests.
“The majority of Chicago is fairly safe from this particular problem,” he said. “That 85 percent — they choose that lifestyle. They choose it.”

He said that state law needed to do a better job of holding repeat gun offenders accountable.

The mayor

Asked why Los Angeles and New York had lower homicide numbers, Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised “a comprehensive strategy to attack the issue of gun violence and gangs” in Chicago during an interview on “Chicago Tonight” on WTTW:

“In mid-September, I’m going to give a major address on public safety, of what we have to do as a city. It’s a very complex set of problems that will be addressed in a very comprehensive way. Everything from our police, to what we’ve got to do for our children and their safety, to dealing with guns, holding criminals accountable and making sure that we’re also providing hope where there’s despair.”
He added: “I want to have a discussion where the police are part of the solution in making changes.”

The media

The violence continued as August rolled into September.

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