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At least 20 people were shot and two people were murdered during Chicago’s first weekend of 2021, as the police department, its superintendent and former brass reflect on a violent, tumultuous year in policing in the Illinois city and across America.
There were 18 shootings with 20 victims reported from 6 p.m. Friday to 11:59 p.m. Sunday, the Chicago Police Department said. Including New Year’s Eve and all-day Friday, the holiday weekend saw 30 people wounded and five people killed, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The weekend bloodshed is nothing new for Chicago, where police said 769 people were murdered in all of 2020, which is a sharp increase of more than 55% from the 495 killings reported in 2019. The number of people killed in 2020 falls short of Chicago’s record of 771 murders, which was reported in 2016, according to statistics provided to Fox News on Monday.
As for gun violence, there were 3,261 shootings in 2020 and 4,033 people were shot, the police department said. Both categories grew by more than 50% from the 2,146 shootings and 2,598 wounded victims reported in 2019.
Chicago police investigate the scene of a shooting that killed rapper Carlton Weekly, known as FBG Duck, and wounded two others at 70 E. Oak St. in Chicago on August 4, 2020. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Chicago Police Superintendent David O. Brown told Fox News that the uptick in murders and fatal shootings "is not unique to Chicago."
Brown called 2020 "the perfect storm," and pointed to the novel coronavirus pandemic and the May 25 death of George Floyd as some of the factors that complicated policing in 2020.
"Our Chicago Police officers faced an unprecedented set of circumstances in contending with a spike in violent crime, made even more difficult by having to contend with a health pandemic while facing extended periods of heightened civil unrest and looting," Brown said in a lengthy emailed statement.
The Windy City saw spurts of widespread destruction and looting, including in August when swarms of people descended upon the Magnificent Mile, where they destroyed buildings and ransacked stores. Officials said the looting spree was prompted, at least in part, by false information that spread in connection with an earlier police-involved shooting. The plan for destruction was shared and spread on social media.
“Criminals are emboldened and the police are being handcuffed, and the direct result is violence. Period.”
Speaking about the soaring violence, former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said the figures were "not just shocking, [but] disappointing because it doesn’t have to be like that."
McCarthy served at the helm of the Chicago Police Department from May 2011 through Nov. 2015. He previously served as director of the Newark Police Department in New Jersey and rose through the ranks of the New York Police Department, where he was ultimately named deputy commissioner of operations.
CHICAGO FINISHES 2020 WITH 769 HOMICIDES AS SHOOTINGS SPIKE
In no particular order, McCarthy attributed the violent crime spike to a demoralized workforce; the politicization of policing by city leaders; the emboldening of criminals; and the lack of consequences by officials who are choosing not to prosecute certain crimes, among other things.
Police, he said, are "under attack by politicians. They’re under attack by ‘activists.’ And who’s got their back? That’s the question," he told Fox News when reached by phone Monday. "Because of the dynamic, because police are under attack, what we’re doing is hamstringing the police and emboldening criminals at the same time."
Chicago police officers have also been increasingly targeted in recent years. Police said 79 officers were shot at, and 10 were wounded, in 2020. The number of times shots were fired at officers has skyrocketed by 558% since 2015 – a statistic that McCarthy called "alarming."
"I can’t say I’m surprised," he added. "Criminals are emboldened and the police are being handcuffed, and the direct result is violence. Period. That’s cause and effect right there."
Through the year, the city police took 11,343 illegal guns off the street as gun-related arrests reached 7,280, a 20-year high, the department said. Chicago police personnel also solved the highest number of murder cases in 2020 than they have since 2005, city police officials said.
A woman kneels on the ground outside the University of Chicago Medicine’s Comer Children’s Hospital where a 8-year-old girl was taken after being killed in a shooting that wounded three others near the intersection of 47th street and Union Avenue during the Labor Day weekend Monday Sep. 7, 2020 in Chicago. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Despite the highs in murders and violence, Chicago police reported "20-year lows" in the number of thefts, robberies and burglaries reported and a reduction in overall crime for the fourth year in a row.
Brown is no stranger to policing. Before being sworn in as Chicago police superintendent in April, Brown served as top cop of the Dallas Police Department for about six years before he retired in 2016 after 33 years with the department, according to reports.
The Chicago Police Department is working to build its relationship by working closely with the community to build a rapport with local residents, he told Fox News.
"The best way to reduce crime and violence is to prevent it from happening in the first place by building bridges and trust in the community," he said, calling community engagement a "central component" of the department's policing approach.
In addition to hosting several events with the public over the summer, the department is launching a Police Athletic and Arts League and is broadening its neighborhood policing initiative, he said.
The department is also closely monitoring the public’s trust in its officers through its partnership with Elucd, a company that analyzes data based on anonymous surveys delivered through digital advertising to residents of a city for their input.
Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown speaks at a news conference in Chicago on July 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford, File)
In December, Chicago police announced a public dashboard generated by Elucd that allows anyone to see how the public feels about the local police. The department has worked with Elucd since the end of 2017 and launched its "public sentiment dashboard" on Dec. 10, so that "members of the public can see the kinds of data that city leaders in Chicago have been seeing," Sujeet Rao, chief information officer at Elucd, told Fox News.
Rao said Elucd is working with roughly a dozen cities nationwide and called Chicago "a real pioneer in building the public-facing dashboard component." In a city like Chicago, roughly 1,500 to 2,000 surveys are collected every month, he said. As of the date of the CPD announcement, more than 63,000 survey responses had been collected, according to a department press release.
"Especially in light of the year you've just had … the idea of leaders having tools that can help them keep their finger on the pulse of their community is more important than ever, we think," Rao told Fox News. "And we're really excited to kind of help bridge that gap."
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Elucd’s surveys are a mix of "core questions," or those that Elucd’s survey makers have created to measure trust and safety, as well as questions specific to the region or to what city leaders would like to know more about.
For Chicago, a company spokesperson said Elucd’s survey asks "specific suggestions for how people would like to see police engage more deeply with the community and to identify other problems they’d like local officers to address."
The Chicago Police Sentiment Dashboard can be accessed here.
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