Homicides in Chicago soared by 60 percent in the first three months of 2012, continuing a troublesome trend that began late last year, reports the Chicago Tribune. Nonfatal shootings were up sharply. The worsening violence comes as the Rahm Emanuel administration touts its efforts to combat gang crime and add officers and resources to some of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods. Chicago police blame street gangs for much of the violence. Another contributing factor was the unseasonably warm weather this past winter, but police Superintendent Garry McCarthy has scoffed at that explanation.
“In better weather, people are outside more, interacting more with neighbors, acquaintances, even strangers, and there’s greater opportunity for conflict than when it’s cold and windy,” said Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox. Fox and other experts caution that concluding too much from a few months of crime statistics can be misleading and noted that in recent years Chicago has been at historic lows for homicides. In 2008, the city saw similar spikes early in the year and ended up with more than 500 homicides, the only time that has happened in the last nine years.