Chicago’s homicide total has broken 500 for the first time since 2008, an unfortunate statistic for a city that gone through its fair share of turmoil in 2012. The Chicago Police Department’s official homicide records list exactly 500 homicides this year with just two days left in December. The Associated Press reported that 40-year-old gunshot victim Nathaniel Jackson was the latest life taken, killed outside of a convenience store on the West Side this past Thursday.
City officials have blamed gang violence and the availability of illegal guns for the rise in the homicide rate, which had been on the decline in the years since 2008, when 512 cases of homicide were reported. Speaking to Reuters on Friday, Chicago Police Commissioner Garry McCarthy expressed his frustrations, calling the statistics, “unacceptable.”
“In the first six months of the year, we seized three guns for every gun seized in Los Angeles and nine guns for every gun confiscated by the New York Police Department,” McCarthy said.
“When people ask me, ‘What’s different about Chicago?’ that’s one of the things I tell them. We have a proliferation of illegal firearms,” he said.
While Chicago struggles with homicide, New York has enjoyed one of its least violent years in recent history. Both New York and California have implemented bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, something that Illinois does not consider. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, an organization co-chaired by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and has advocated for stricter gun laws.
Despite the increased homicide rate, Chicago’s other crime statistics saw much more positive trends, with less violent crimes like robbery, burglary and motor vehicle theft decreasing. Though the early months of the year saw the most bloodshed, McCarthy told Reuters that the city’s fourth quarter homicide statistics are 15 percent lower than the same period last year.
“We’re doing what we can do and it’s working.”