Chicago surpasses 500th homicide of the year during violent Labor Day weekend
Sixty-five people were shot over Labor Day weekend in Chicago, resulting in 13 fatalities and sending the death count of the city's internecine violence above 500 for this year, the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday.
In total, there have been 2,930 victims of gunfire this year in Chicago, with 512 total homicides reported.
According to the Tribune, the city's homicide rate for 2016 is on track to reach levels "not seen since the 1990s, when killings peaked at more than 900 annually." August's total of 90 deaths is the highest single month since 1996, and only a few killings short of the July 1993 record of 99 deaths.
According to USA Today, if the killings continue at their current rate, the city will pass 600 homicides before the end of 2016 — the highest year-end total since 2003.
The causes of the violence are many and varied, but as the Tribune reported in July, they include a long legacy of segregation and institutional racism; a high gang presence within the city; and the widespread availability of firearms, thanks to loose gun laws in neighboring Indiana and black market reselling of legally purchased firearms from nearby suburbs.
These violent crimes often go unsolved; according to Reuters, the Chicago Police Department's murder clearance rate is one of the lowest in the country, hampered by a detective force too small to handle the massive caseloads and a lack of witnesses (possibly related to the department's own much-rumored code of silence).
"When communities lose confidence in the police to protect them and to serve their interests effectively, community members often will take matters into their own hands and settle disputes violently," University of Missouri criminologist Richard Rosenfeld told the Tribune. "I think that's what you are seeing playing out on the streets of Chicago right now."
Chicago's murder rate stands in stark contrast to falling or stable rates of violence nationally. Since the 1990s, Pew Research wrote, the gun homicide rate fell from 7.0 to 3.8 homicides per 100,000 people from 1993 to 2000 and has hovered at a constant over 11,000-12,000 people per year.