The nation’s third largest city has recorded at least 95 homicides in the first two months of 2016, the deadliest start to a year since the late 1990s, according to police department data.
Chicago Police Department officials said on Tuesday that the spike in violence is being driven by a rise in gang activity. The city recorded at least 43 homicides in February after recording 52 homicides in January, matching the deadliest start of a year for the city since 1999. That year the city recorded 643 murders.
“While we have much more work to do, however the Chicago Police Department will not rest until every resident in every neighborhood enjoys the same sense of safety,” said Interim Police Superintendent John Escalante. “We will continue to work tirelessly on ways to stop violence, and restore accountability and trust in communities throughout the city.”
The city’s police also recorded 165 shooting incidents for the month of February. Not counted in the police department’s official homicide toll are several violent deaths that were ruled justified — including two robbery suspects killed by a shop owner and a man fatally shot by police.
If all violent deaths were counted, the homicide toll would rise to 102 for the first two months of the year, according to a data base maintained by the Chicago Tribune.
Chicago Police reported 468 murders in 2015, a 12.5% increase from the year before. There were also 2,900 shootings, 13% more than the year prior, according to police department records.
The surge in violence comes as the CPD has come under intense scrutiny in the aftermath of the court-ordered release in November of police video showing an officer fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The officer in the shooting, Jason Van Dyke, has been charged with first degree murder for the October 2014 incident that led to weeks of protests in the city and the ouster of the police superintendent Garry McCarthy following the graphic video’s release.
While the department says much of the violence can be attributed to a rise in gang activity, some of the killings have been notable for their apparent randomness and grisliness.
Shari Graham, 30, was killed on Friday after she was shot in the back, while riding in the back of a taxi about a half mile of U.S. Cellular Field, the home of the Chicago White Sox on the city’s South Side. Police do not believe she was the intended target.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Aamer Madhani