On Monday, the Chicago Tribune staff had the grim task of updating its website tallying shootings in the Windy City in 2016.
In that one year alone, 4,368 people were shot in Chicago.
“The 10.8 percent increase in the murder rate in 2015 is the most since a rise of more than 11 percent from 1967 to 1968.”
For 2016, the city of Chicago’s homicide rate (by any method — guns, hands, or knives) is up 57 percent from the same point — Dec. 26 — in 2015. By the day after Christmas in 2015, 480 people were murdered in Chicago. A year later, the Windy City murder rate was up 57 percent, to 754, by Dec. 26.
It’s a jarring number. Something is wrong in the nation’s third-largest city. And it’s symptomatic of a creeping violence that Americans sense and fear, since riots broke out in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014.
People are dying and people are getting shot at greater numbers, especially in Chicago, which hasn’t seen gun violence at current levels since 1997. President-Wlect Donald Trump has to find a way to meet his goals, promised on the campaign trail, to make highly populated urban areas such as Chicago livable and safe again.
It won’t be easy. When police act, they are now accused by the media, activists, and even Democratic politicians of overreaching. To make matters worse, a wave of assassinations of police officers began after the Ferguson riots of 2014. Leaders in Chicago, the White House, and elsewhere were seen as frozen — not knowing what to do.
Liberals fell back on their usual ways, harshly and almost desperately arguing against “stop-and-frisk” policies in New York City. That policy was successful in bringing down crime in New York City in the 1990s, and Trump said he supported it.
Crime was supposed to be over as a troublesome political issue. Crime rates fell over the years, as both Republican and Democratic governors cracked down on repeat offenders and drug criminals. But crime began creeping up after 2014. The FBI noted in August that there were an estimated 1,197,704 violent crimes committed across the nation in 2015.
“While that was an increase from 2014 figures, the 2015 violent crime total was 0.7 percent lower than the 2011 level and 16.5 percent below the 2006 level,” the FBI stated.
So both sides could argue “crime was down.” But in fact, a number of high-profile transgressions made the public uncomfortable. One of them was the Chicago chaos.
But it wasn’t just Chicago. Baltimore saw its homicide rate jump, topping 300 this month. In Pima County (Tucson), Arizona, the homicide rate is up 100 percent for 2016.
It is likely one reason President-Elect Donald Trump won on Election Day. And Trump was onto something, as the FBI indicated in September. Overall crime rates may not be spiking in every city nationwide.
As the economy improves, property crimes have decreased, the FBI says. But in the stead of property, criminals are taking lives and health. The most significant violent crime in 2015 was aggravated assault, which accounted for about 64 percent of all U.S. violent crimes.
But it was the murder rate that jarred voters just before the election. On Sept. 26, The New York Times admitted, “The 10.8 percent increase in the murder rate in 2015 is the most since a rise of more than 11 percent from 1967 to 1968.”
In Chicago alone, the murder number has outpaced both New York City and Los Angeles, combined.
It’s a cultural twist that vexes the mostly prosperous city and region. While the rest of the nation celebrates the holidays, Chicago officials brace for violence. This Christmas was no different.
There were 27 shootings last Christmas weekend. Twelve were fatal. Overall, more than 4,300 people have been wounded in Chicago by guns. That’s up 46 percent.
It’s a toll that exceeds the two largest cities combined. According to the Chicago Tribune, New York and Los Angeles had a combined 613 homicides by mid-December, fewer than Chicago’s total. And there were a combined 2,306 shooting victims in the two cities, about half of Chicago’s total, according to the Tribune.
Democratic leaders seem incapable of fixing Chicago and other cities where murder rates are high. It was a vacuum of ideas and toughness similar to the opening left in 1968, when Republican Richard Nixon promised “law and order.”
This year, Trump backed the police, despite some wrongful police shootings that had Clinton pandering to the Left and Black Lives Matter.
Trump called for tough sentencing.
He supported stop-and-frisk, a key tool to grab illegal guns and drugs from young offenders. Voters liked it.
But the solution is not to simply fill up the prisons.
The solution is to motivate governors and mayors to begin focusing on troubled neighborhoods, and removing illegal guns and drugs as they can, every day and night. Federal authorities should also target areas with large homicide rates, giving local authorities assistance.
It will all take a redoubling of efforts — and a new, smarter war on crime. Trump must be up for it.