With at least 18 homicides in the first ten days of 2013, Chicago, Illinois is on pace for more than 700 murders this year – a figure which would far surpass last year’s 516 and leave New York City’s murder rate in the dust.
In 2012, a total of 516 people were murdered in Chicago, most of which occurred in the city’s notoriously dangerous West and South Sides. Last year’s deadliest month was August, in which 57 people were murdered in the Windy City, many at the end of a gun barrel.
But this year there have already been 18 homicides in Chicago, six of which occurred throughout a single weekend. The city has already accumulated more than twice as many murders as Detroit, which saw a 20-year high in homicides in 2012. At the current rate of two or more murders per day, Chicago is on pace to accumulate more than 730 homicides this year, which would be a record high since 1997.
Of the 18 homicides that occurred in Chicago over the past ten days, 15 of the victims died from gunshot wounds, two were stabbed, and one was a victim of a fatal assault. More than half of the victims were under the age of 30 and nearly all of them were male.
Last year, the majority of homicides were a direct result of gang violence, which authorities this year also describe as the cause of some of the murders. But author Alex Kotlowitz, who has numerous published works on growing up in Chicago, tells NPR that “many of these shootings are over what are such petty matters.” Kids with weapons too often react violently to another person coming to their street corner, which they consider their clique’s ‘territory.’
The shootings are so common that even going to a funeral can lead to someone’s own death. One Chicago resident compared his neighborhood to the “Wild West.”
“This city’s 471st homicide of 2012 happened in the middle of the day, in the middle of a crowd, on the steps of the church where the victim of homicide 463 was being eulogized,” the New York Times reports. “Sherman Miller, who was 21, collapsed amid gunfire not far from the idle hearse that was there to carry away James Holman, 32, shot to death a week earlier.”
The frequency of the Chicago murders has made it difficult for the news media to adequately report on individual cases. To track the murders in the crime-ridden city, the Chicago-Sun Times is now collaborating with the Washington, DC-based group Homicide Watch and will post murder reports and case information on its website, homicides.suntimes.com, which is scheduled to go live later this month.
“In Chicago, the murder rate is what everybody is talking about,” Sun Times’ Editor in Chief Jim Kirk tells the New York Times. “This is one of many initiatives we want to experiment with, in trying to bring our readers more closely together. What Homicide Watch shows is that people do like to discuss and relate to issues in their backyard.”
Homicide Watch was co-founded by Laura and Chris Amico, who used donations from Kickstarter to pay for their initiatives. The Trentonian, a New Jersey newspaper, has also partnered with Homicide Watch to tell every victim’s story.
“Where Chicago is really different is the scale,” said Mr. Amico. “Trenton has about 20 homicides a year. Chicago had more than 500.”
Chicago’s murder rate has far outpaced even other notoriously dangerous cities and will most likely be 2013’s US murder capital. New York City has only seen seven murders through Jan. 7, even though its population is three times as large as Chicago’s. Detroit, which is experiencing a 20-year murder rate high, was host to six homicides through Sunday.
“The nationwide murder rate has significantly declined the past couple of decades,” says NPR host Steve Inskeep. “Yet if you start plotting murders on a map, you will still find outbreaks – like outbreaks of disease.”
With 18 reported murders in the first ten days of 2013, Chicago’s outbreak is on pace to worsen.