( 4UMF NEWS ) Gun Violence On The Rise In Chicago:
After a record low number of murders last year, violence is soaring: a 40% increase in shootings and 29% more homicides in the first three months of the year.
The city has recorded 355 shootings this year as of Monday compared with 253 shootings for the first quarter of 2014, according to crime statistics released by the Chicago Police Department on Wednesday.
Eighty murders were recorded in the first quarter of 2015. There were 62 in the same period last year.
Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said the city has made significant progress in reducing overall crime in the past few years, but his department is challenged by gun laws that he said make it too easy for dangerous criminals to get access to illegal weapons.
McCarthy and other Chicago officials have long blamed neighboring states Indiana and Wisconsin for contributing to Chicago’s homicide problems. From 2009 to 2013, 60% of guns recovered in crimes in Chicago were originally purchased in states with fewer restrictions on gun ownership, according to police.
“Even with the strongest partnerships and best policing in the world, without better state and federal laws to help keep illegal guns off the streets, we will continue to face an uphill battle,” McCarthy said.
The increase in violence comes as Chicagoans get ready to vote Tuesday on whether to give incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel another four-year term.
Emanuel, who polls show is on track to easily win re-election, was forced into a runoff after he failed to win a majority of the vote in the city’s election Feb. 25. The mayor’s opponent, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, latched onto the new crime numbers to accuse Emanuel of falling short on making the city safer. Garcia pledged to add 1,000 cops to the streets.
“This spike in homicides is one more intolerable example of Mayor Emanuel’s broken promises and wrong priorities — and comes in tandem with more than 10,500 shootings and 1,800 homicides under his watch,” Garcia said. “Parents worry about their kids playing outside in every neighborhood in this city, while rank-and-file police officers are short-staffed and starved of resources.”
Emanuel has touted the strides Chicago has made under his watch in reducing the number of homicides. The nation’s third-largest city had 407 murders last year, a record low. Two years earlier, Chicago grabbed national headlines when it recorded more than 500 homicides, significantly outpacing larger cities New York (419) and Los Angeles (299).
The rate of unregistered or stolen guns recovered by Chicago police increased 22% in the first quarter of 2015 from the same period last year. Police have recovered more than 1,500 illegal guns this year, and first-quarter arrests for illegal gun possession increased 39%.
Overall, crime is down 5% from the same period last year.
Emanuel told NBC Chicago on Wednesday that the city needs more help from state lawmakers in Springfield to stem gun violence.
“The No. 1 problem is shootings and homicides, and that’s why I’ve been clear from the get-go … yes, we want more police,” Emanuel said. “We’ve got to have them in the right place. But we have to get the laws changed in Springfield.”