|© Whitney Curtis for The New York Times|
Homicides and shootings, already an all-too-common hazard in the city, have skyrocketed since last year, when the numbers were already high. The rise in violence is fueled in part by gangs, whose disagreements range from neighborhood turf wars to disputes over girlfriends. The conflicts often escalate quickly to gunfire.
This weekend, one of the victims was an 18-year-old Hispanic man who was shot multiple times in the neck and back while he was driving in the Gage Park neighborhood, on the city’s southwest side, at 1:30 a.m. on Christmas Day.
His death would become another entry in a fast-moving police log of murder investigations, many with no suspects in custody.
Officer Jose Estrada, a spokesman with the Chicago Police Department, said in a telephone interview on Sunday that the total number of homicides this year was 745, a 56 percent increase from 476 at the same time last year. This year was the first time in nearly two decades that more than 700 homicides had been recorded in the city, The Chicago Tribune reported this month.
Officer Estrada said the total number of shooting victims stood at 4,252, up 47 percent from 2,884 at the same time in 2015. Data of the shootings over Christmas weekend logged by The Chicago Tribune reflected a relentless crime blotter: Nearly all the people shot were men, the majority under 30.
The brutal cold of a Chicago winter has not been as reliable a deterrent of violence as it has been in the past: 42 homicides have been recorded so far this month, compared with 33 during the entire month of December last year, according to The Tribune’s data.
Deadly Christmas weekend in Chicago: 12 people fatally shot
Chicago's citywide crime wave didn't slow down during the holiday weekend.
City police investigated 27 shooting incidents this Christmas weekend, 12 of which were fatal, city Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said during a Monday news briefing.
"The violence primarily occurred in areas with historical gang conflicts on the South and West sides of the City," Johnson said. "We now know that the majority of these shootings and homicides were targeted attacks by gangs against potential rival gang members and groups who were at holiday gatherings."
Chicago police said there have been 753 homicides and 3,495 shooting incidents in the city from January 1 to December 25. During the same time frame in 2015, there were 478 homicides and 2,393 shooting incidents.
"These were deliberate and planned shootings by one gang against another," Johnson said Monday. "They were targeted knowing fully well that individuals would be at the homes of family and friends celebrating the holidays. This was followed by several acts of retaliation."
In one Christmas night incident, a man walked out of an alley, opened fire on people partying on a porch in the East Chatham neighborhood and then ran away, CNN affiliate WLS reported. Two brothers 18 and 21 years old died and five people were wounded. No arrest has been reported.
Ninety percent of those killed had gang affiliation, criminal history and had been identified as potential offenders or victims of gun violence, said Johnson. Forty-five guns were seized over the weekend, he said.
Johnson called on Chicago's policymakers to enact stricter gun laws, specifically to increase sentences for repeat gun violence offenders.
Johnson said criminals feel empowered and emboldened by recent criticisms of police.
"When they feel the public will speak out for them and not the police officers, that's giving them the power to go out and do what they did," Johnson said.
August was the deadliest month, with 96 homicide reports, the Chicago Tribune said. In one weekend in August, there were eight gun-related homicides and 64 non-fatal shootings.
More than 50 people shot in Chicago over long holiday weekend
Nine people were wounded in daylight shootings in Chicago early Monday, bringing to more than 50 the number of people shot over the long Christmas weekend.
Eleven of the 53 people shot between about 4:50 p.m. Friday and about the same time Monday died from their wounds. More than a dozen others were listed in serious or critical condition.
The city saw eight multiple-victim shootings, including an attack that left two people dead and five others wounded and another shooting that left two people dead.
Much of the violence happened in areas "with historical gang conflicts on the south and west side of Chicago," said Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department.
He also referred to the department's "strategic subject list," which is generated daily from a computerized algorithm and assigns a score from 1 to 500 based on such factors as a person's arrests and the activities of his or her associates. Those people with a score in the upper 200s or higher are considered in danger of being shot or of shooting someone else.
"Ninety percent of those fatally wounded had gang affiliations, criminal histories and were pre-identified by the department's strategic subject algorithm as being a potential suspect or victim of gun violence," Guglielmi said.
The gunfire Monday included a man shot in each leg, a man wounded in the hand and a person shot in the head, authorities said.
Monday morning's shootings came after two brothers were killed and five other people were wounded while shooting dice at a family Christmas party in East Chatham late Sunday.
That mass shooting, and the others on Christmas, added to the tolls this year in Chicago, where more than 700 homicides have been recorded and more than 4,000 people have been shot -- a level of violence not seen in Chicago since the late 1990s, according to Chicago Tribune and police data. Last year, 488 people were killed in Chicago.
The holiday weekend began with five teenagers shot within feet of each other in the South Austin neighborhood. At 3:30 p.m. Friday, a 16-year-old boy was shot; a little more than an hour later, four other teenagers were shot on a nearby block. Their conditions had stabilized, officials said Monday.
Guglielmi said most of the attacks were targeted attacks by gangs against potential rivals who were at holiday gatherings. That brought on retaliatory gun violence. In response, police adjusted their assignments as needed and seized 45 guns from areas with a heavy presence of gangs, Guglielmi said.
"While we have promising leads, this unacceptable level of gun violence demonstrates the clear and present need for policy makers to convene in January and give Chicago the gun sentencing tools against repeat offenders so that we can adequately hold people accountable," he said.