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This Year, Chicago Has Had Its Deadliest First Quarter Since 1999

By Sarah Gouda in News on Mar 31, 2016 9:24PM

There have been 135 recorded homicides in Chicago as of 6 a.m. Wednesday. A 71 percent jump from the same year-earlier period, this is our highest rate of violence since 1999, a year that saw 136 killings in the first quarter.

As of Wednesday morning, Chicago had recorded 135 homicides for the year 2016, making it our most deadly first quarter since 1999. And it's a significant jump from last year, when Chicago saw 79 killings in the same period of time. If the rate of violence keeps up, Chicago is on course to top 500 homicides for the year—a number we’ve only seen once since 2008. The Tribune reported the alarming stats this week.

Non-fatal shootings are only getting worse, too. In the first three months of the year, 727 people have been shot, compared to 422 people for the same time-period for the year prior. Given that the Tribune analysis department reports homicides jumped by 12.5 percent from 2014 to 2015, these numbers are especially disheartening.

New interim police Superintendent Eddie Johnson commented at a news conference on Wednesday that gang conflicts and easily obtainable guns contribute to the persistent problem. But on a somewhat hopeful note, he said the year-over-year percentage rise in homicides decreased in the month of March to 25 percent—a comparatively good sign in light of the other news.

“We know who is committing these crimes. It’s a small segment of the population,” Johnson told reporters. He indicated that so far, half of the homicide victims this year have been gang-related and stressed the police department's responsibility to hold individual criminals accountable.

The spikes in violence come at a time of considerable change for the Chicago Police Department. Mayor Emanuel fired Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in December after the court-ordered release of the video showing a police officer shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times. In his first public appearance since being fired, McCarthy suggested that his absence was at least partly to blame for the violence in 2016.