CHICAGO – Last month was the deadliest January on record in Chicago for at least 16 years. The Chicago Police Department reports there were 51 murders in the city in January. That’s nearly double the 29 murders committed in January 2015.
There were also 242 shootings and 292 shooting victims last month. That’s more than double the number from 2015.
Those numbers are an alarming statistic since we usually see such violence during the warmer, summer months.
Even more alarming, the number of shootings in January jumped nearly 60 percent from the first month of 2012, the last year in which homicides rose above 500.
Escalante attributes the spike in violence in part, to a decline in traffic stops after a new state law that took effect in 2016.
“You’re talking about prior to Jan. 1st what basically is an index card to now an 8×10 piece of paper front and back so it is more time consuming for the officers,” Escalante said.
It’s part of an agreement with the ACLU to better explain why officers pull people over.
On Monday, the CPD held a training session to get all officers up to speed on the new forms.
But some question if the drop in traffic stops could be morale related, after the release of the Laquan McDonald video and a potential “stand down” mentality among officers.
Escalante says he really doesn’t know about that, adding “I don’t think so but it’s possible.”
Escalante says the department plans to increase police visibility in Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods on the South and West sides by putting 380 officers and sergeants assigned to foot patrols into police squad cars.
“What this does is make them more mobile and more visible to a greater number of people. Prior to that they were all in impact zones on foot,” said Eddie Johnson, CPD Chief of Patrol.
Officers will also increase their home visits to known gang members as part of a project to offer them social services if they give up the gang life.
“We do have quite a bit of work to do to try to get the violence under control and to bring those numbers down. But I think we’re taking the right steps to make sure that starts to happen quickly, said Escalante.
Escalante stressed a majority of the shootings are gang related.