August is going down as the most violent month in Chicago in 20 years, as weekend shootings raised the number of homicides this year to just a few shy of all of last year’s.
A total of 67 people were shot over the weekend and 11 of them died. It was one of the deadliest weekends this year and pushed the number of homicides for the month to 84 with three more days to go, according to data collected by the Tribune.
The city hasn’t seen a month with 80 or more homicides since October of 1996, which logged 85. August of that year also saw 85 homicides and June of that year saw 90.
Chicago has a lower homicide rate than many other U.S. cities that are smaller in population. But this year, the city has recorded more homicides and shooting victims than New York City and Los Angeles combined.
Chicago has recorded 487 homicides and more than 2,800 people shot so far this year, compared to 491 homicides all of last year and 2,988 people shot, according to Tribune and CPD data.
New York, with more than three times the population of Chicago, has recorded 222 homicides and 760 shooting victims, according to NYPD crime statistics through Aug. 21. In Los Angeles, a city of about 4 million, 176 people have been slain and 729 people shot, according to LAPD crime data through Aug. 20.
The gun violence in Chicago has been concentrated on the South and West sides that have lost population over the years as other areas have grown.
The Harrison District on the West Side, for example, has had almost 400 people shot this year after logging 350 all of last year. Englewood saw 330 people shot all of last year and has tallied close to 300 this year.
The deadliest night of this past weekend was Friday into early Saturday, when four people were killed, including Nykea Aldridge, 32, the cousin of basketball player Dwyane Wade. She was pushing her baby in a stroller in the 6300 block of South Calumet Avenue when two men approached and began shooting at a man walking near her.
Chicago police officials have cited the constant flow of illegal firearms through dangerous neighborhoods and an intractable gang problem – with some disputes beginning on social media platforms– as strong contributors to the city’s violence.
In recent months, police Superintendent Eddie Johnson has been pushing lawmakers in Springfield to pass legislation requiring harsher sentences for criminals arrested repeatedly for carrying illegal guns.
Earlier this month, Johnson met with several police chiefs from across the country to discuss the nation’s gun violence problem, noting that Chicago is among about 40 U.S. cities that have experienced spikes in violence.
Cities like Milwaukee and Washington, D.C – both much smaller than Chicago in population – have seen homicide spikes that they haven’t experienced in more than two decades. Milwaukee police Chief Edward Flynn told reporters earlier this month how the city enjoyed six straight years of record low homicide totals, only to see 2015 end with its highest total in 25 years.
In Washington, D.C., homicides rose in 2015 for the first time in a decade, according to that city’s police chief, Cathy Lanier.
The surge in violence comes at a tumultuous time for the Chicago Police Department. It is still dealing with the aftermath of the court-ordered release of video showing Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times, killing the teen as he walked away from police with a knife in his hand.
The public furor from the video’s release last November led Mayor Rahm Emanuel to fire Garry McCarthy as the superintendent. Murder charges were filed against Van Dyke, and the head of the police oversight agency resigned, as the U.S. Department of Justice began a wide-ranging civil rights investigation into the department.
Earlier this year, the Tribune reported a precipitous drop in morale among Chicago police officers, based on interviews with officers.