Outside Chicago, suburbs are also struggling with surge in violent crime

WGN Investigates

COOK COUNTY, Ill. — While Chicago gets most of the attention when it comes to crime concerns, nearby suburbs are also seeing a significant surge in carjackings, shootings and murders. 

WGN Investigates analyzed homicide data from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office and found there have been 204 homicides in suburban Cook County this year, a 55% increase over 2019.

“I wish I could say I had a sense of outrage; but I almost felt numb, like we’re getting used to it,” said Oak Park resident Brian Varner.

He and other neighbors have banded together since a rolling shootout last month was captured on home surveillance video. At least 40 shots were fired between the occupants of two vehicles.   

“It just seems to be happening more and more frequently,” said Oak Park resident Michael Baldwin. “I’ve had a carjacking in front of my house. There was another carjackings across the street. My neighbors got carjacked.”

Oak Park residents gather to talk about a recent increase in crime with Ben Bradley

Baldwin organized a group of concerned residents that now includes more than 100 people who have been frustrated by what they see a slow response from Oak Park leaders. The village president, police chief and village administration all declined to speak with WGN News.

Oak Park isn’t alone in battling an increase in crime. Experts said it’s driven by easy access to guns, a perception that offenders don’t face serious consequences and suburban police forces that are depleted – and in some cases – demoralized.

“When you don’t have enough people to staff you’re doing mostly reactive policing,” said Chief Leo Schmitz of the Cook County Sheriff’s Department.

Heatmap of carjackings in Cook County

WGN Investigates obtained data from several suburbs that show an increase in deadly shootings:

Evanston deadly shootings: 6 in 2021 vs. 1 in 2019 [500% increase]

Berwyn deadly shootings:  4 in 2021 vs. 1 in 2019 [300% increase]

Cicero deadly shootings: 6 in 2021 vs. 2 in 2019 [200% increase]

Maywood deadly shootings: 14 in 2021 vs. 11 in 2019 [27% increase]

South Holland deadly shootings: 8 in 2021 vs. 0 in 2019  

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