Chicago searches for answers to stem surging murder toll

September 4, 2016

CHICAGO — After the city's most violent month in over 20 years, civil rights and community leaders in Chicago are grappling to find answers — and even looking to President Obama for help — to stem the bloodshed in the nation's third largest city.

The grim death toll of 92 murders in August marks a low point in what has been a difficult year for the nation’s third largest city. Already, the city has recorded 474 murders — about 47% more killings than Chicago tallied at the same point last year and more murders than New York and Los Angeles combined.

It's the most murders Chicago has recorded in a single month since June 1993, when the city tallied 99 murders, according to police department data. Back then, the city was grappling with gang warfare in the midst of the crack-cocaine epidemic, and the city recorded 855 murders for the year.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson has blamed the recent surge in killings on increased gang activity and gun laws he says are too weak to be an effective deterrent.

"The historical cycle of violence we have seen in some communities must come to an end," Johnson said. "Repeat gun offenders who drive the violence on our streets should not be there in the first place, and it is time to changes the laws to ensure these violent offenders are held accountable for their crimes."

Police note that the increase in gun violence in Chicago is concentrated to about five police districts on the South and West sides of the city. The neighborhoods are predominantly African-American, and suffer from deep levels of poverty.

The vast majority of murder victims and assailants are on the police department’s Strategic Subject List, a predictive roster the department generates by crunching arrest information, gang affiliation, shooting patterns and other data to determine people most likely to be involved in a shooting. The list includes about 1,400 people.

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