The uptick was felt across the city as 20 of the CPD’s 22 police districts recorded more murders.

By Sam Charles Dec 31, 2020, 2:38pm CST

Chicago police investigate a mass shooting outside a funeral home on 79th Street in Auburn Gresham.
Fifteen people were wounded in a shooting in July at a funeral home on 79th Street in Auburn Gresham.

An 8-year-old girl, fatally shot while riding in a car with family members in Canaryville.

A popular South Side rapper, killed in a daylight shooting along the city’s ritziest shopping corridor.

A mother of two, stabbed to death while at work at a Wicker Park Walgreens store.

A well-known and influential gang member, shot and killed while driving in a part of Humboldt Park that’s long been a hotbed for gang conflicts and open-air drug markets.

After three consecutive years of declining violence, Chicago’s murder tally soared in 2020 as city leaders — including a new Chicago police superintendent — were forced to confront widespread civil unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of Dec. 31, the city recorded 774 murders in 2020, an increase of more than 50% from the 506 murders in 2019, according to a database maintained by the Chicago Sun-Times. The uptick was felt across the city, as 20 of the CPD’s 22 police districts recorded more murders in 2020 than the year before. The number of overall shooting incidents skyrocketed, too, rising from 2,120 in 2019 to 3,237 as of Dec. 27, 2020.

CPD Supt. David Brown, right, and Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan at police headquarters.
CPD Supt. David Brown, right, and Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan at police headquarters in June.

The department’s murder clearance rate on the year stands at 45.6%, with detectives closing 350 murder cases in 2020 — the most in a single year since 2005, according to CPD spokesman Don Terry. The department’s clearance rate in 2019 was 53%.

CPD Supt. David Brown has, on many occasions, said a “perfect storm” of factors led to the year’s spike in violence, and a multi-pronged approach is needed to tamp down killings.

“Public safety is an all-hands-on-deck effort that requires not only the police, but street outreach workers, faith leaders, the courts, community organizations, and residents all working together,” Brown said in a statement Thursday. “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.”

Dewey Elementary School second-grader Dajore Wilson, 8, was killed Sept. 7 while riding in her father’s car in Canaryville. When her father stopped at a light at South Union Avenue and West 47th Street, someone in a car trailing them sprayed their car with bullets.
Eight-year-old Dajore Wilson was fatally shot in September while riding in a vehicle with her family in Canaryville.

Nearly a quarter of all 2020 murders happened in three West Side districts: Harrison, Ogden and Austin. Together, they accounted for 220 killings over the year, with the Harrison District alone recording 99 murders through Thursday, according to police statistics. CPD officials say detectives cleared 99 murder cases in those three districts in 2020.

What’s more, 2020 gave way to the single deadliest day in Chicago’s modern history. On May 31 — as the city was roiled by protests and looting spurred by the killing of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer — Chicago recorded a staggering 18 murders in 24 hours.

In fact, 2020 will go down as Chicago’s second-deadliest year in the past two decades — behind only 2016, when the city saw 784 murders, according to the CPD. Along with shootings, carjackings also dramatically increased in 2020, rising by 105% from 2019.

Chicago police officers were targeted, too. The CPD says 79 officers were fired upon throughout the year, 10 of whom were shot, including three wounded in a single shooting at a Northwest Side police station in July.

Chicago police investigate after a shooting July 30, 2020, at the 25th District station, 5555 W. Grand Ave., on the Northwest Side,
Three Chicago police officers were wounded in a shooting in July at the 25th District police station on the Northwest Side.

Violent crime rose in major cities all across the country, but Chicago saw the most murders of any American municipality, nearly matching the combined totals of New York City and Los Angeles, according to records from all three police departments.

It was not the kind of start that Brown had hoped for. The retired Dallas police chief was picked to lead the CPD in April as the coronavirus pandemic was taking hold, upending daily life for everyone.

Shortly after taking over, Brown set a lofty goal: keep Chicago’s murder total under 300 for the year — something that hadn’t happened in more than 60 years.

A department restructuring begun by Brown’s predecessor, Charlie Beck, was quickly changed as violence surged amid protests and two rounds of widespread looting.

LaSheena Weekly, mother of slain Chicago rapper FBG Duck, holds a press conference Friday in the first block of East Oak Street in the Gold Coast. Weekly asked that there be no retaliatory shootings to her son’s death.
LaSheena Weekly, mother of slain Chicago rapper FBG Duck, held a news conference in August in the first block of East Oak Street where her son was killed. Weekly asked that there be no retaliatory shootings to her son’s death.

Historically, large gatherings and civil unrest led to officers being temporarily reassigned from the city’s neighborhoods to the downtown area.

In an effort to break that habit, Brown moved to create two new specialized teams. The Community Safety Team operates mostly on the South and West sides, supplementing efforts by district commanders while also reaching out to community leaders to forge stronger neighborhood ties. The Critical Incident Response Team, meanwhile, focuses on gatherings in the downtown area.

Something that stuck out from all of the statistics was how often young children were the victims of gun violence.

Speaking after a Fourth of July weekend in which two children were among 15 people killed across the city, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said: “Thoughts and prayers are simply not enough at this point. Sorrow itself is not enough. And what it says is we need to do better as a city this day, this year and really every day. There’s no reason we should be feeling and experiencing moments like this.”

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