The nation’s second-largest county has recorded more homicides this year than in all of 2019, 95 percent of which are people of color, says the Cook County Medical Examiner. Much of the violence is happening in a handful of neighborhoods on Chicago’s South and West sides, reports USA Today. Chicago, like other cities, has seen an uptick in violent crimes this summer amid the pandemic, mass layoffs and nationwide unrest. Murders and shootings are up 52 percent from the same time last year, and dozens of children under 10 have been shot, some fatally. Thousands of Chicagoans have lost jobs amid the pandemic, which has disproportionately affected people of color.
Demeatreas Whatley, a violence interrupter with the organization Cure Violence, said his community feels “on edge” this year. He said that because bars and lounges are closing earlier due to COVID regulations, people are congregating on blocks late at night, making them easier targets for retaliatory shootings, where bystanders have been caught in the crossfire. “People are not trying to go in the house, they congregate on these blocks,” Whatley said. “The way it is now, these guys, if they get word that three of their guys are getting [harassed] on a particular block, they don’t care — they’ll shoot the whole block up.” The last time Cook County reported more than 900 homicide deaths was in 2016, another historically turbulent year in the city. In 1994, there were 1,141 homicides, and there were more than 900 in 1995 and 1996. Police Superintendent David Brown expressed frustration that some people arrested over Labor Day weekend had committed several felonies in the past. “Violent offenders need to spend more time in jail in this city,” he said. “They need to be held more accountable.”