The University of Chicago’s Crime Lab is unable to find a clear cause for the dramatic spike in homicides in Chicago last year, reports DNAInfo. The research group released its yearly report on gun violence in the city yesterday, failing to finger the exact reasons Chicago saw the largest year-over-year increase in homicides of any of the nation’s five largest cities in 25 years. “We’re at the limits with the data we have right now,” said lab director Jens Ludwig of the homicides increase to 764 in 2016 from 485 in 2015. “You did not see it coming and then it happened instantaneously. You can take a lot of the candidate explanations off the table because the timing doesn’t fit.”
Researchers have honed in on a set of possible explanations, including limits on the number of people police can charge with murder in a single year. “One system that seems overwhelmed is the police’s ability to arrest people for shootings,” Ludwig said. Homicide and shooting arrests remained steady as the number of incidents spiked dramatically in 2016. The clearance rate, or the number of murder cases police consider closed, dropped dramatically in 2016 to 26 percent from 36 percent in 2015. That is down from a high of 46 percent in 2013. The number of shooting cases cleared by police is also half of what it was in 2013, dropping to just 5 percent in 2016 from a high of 11 percent in 2013. “If the clearance rate is going down, it increases people’s belief that they need to take matters into their own hands,” Ludwig said.