CHICAGO — Reported shootings and homicides were down for the third straight month in Chicago in May, according to police data, but violence has not returned to pre-pandemic numbers.
According to police data, there were 254 reported shootings as of May this year, compared to 321 shootings in 2021 and 338 shootings in 2020. In 2019, before the start of the pandemic, there were 198 shootings during the same period.
In the first five months of the year, there were 971 shootings, according to police figures, compared to 1,151 in the same period in 2021 and 961 in 2020. 2019 saw 736 shootings in the same period.
So far this year there have been 239 homicides, compared to 259 in the same period in 2021 and 242 in 2020. In 2019 there have been 197 homicides in the same period.
Despite the recent downward trend, the city has endured one of the most violent Memorial Day weekends in several years, and it’s too early to know what summer has in store for Chicago.
“The real test is whether we can see a sustained downward trend as the weather steadily warms,” said violence expert Roseanna Ander, executive director of the University of Chicago Crime Laboratory.
Ander said Chicago’s shootings are “still way too high by any reasonable standards.”
“If we continue to tolerate the levels of gun violence that we do tolerate, we will continue to see residents leaving the city,” she said.
While the monthly drop in shootings isn’t a definitive statistic, it could still be a “hopeful” sign that greater public and private investment in community prevention and violence intervention programs is working, Ander said.
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State, state, and local funding for community-focused anti-violence strategies has been significantly increased, including Governor JB Pritzker’s $50 million pledge this year to support violent interventions. Shootings overall, and on the West Side in particular, have declined as vulnerable people are linked to resources addressing the root causes of violence, behavioral health services and conflict resolution throughout the neighborhood, organizers said.
Community groups build relationships with neighbors most likely to commit violence or be victims of violence “to stop the cycle of violence that breeds retaliatory responses,” Ander said. More robust data collection will help street workers and police position themselves in areas with the most widespread violence, Ander said.
But “we must not lose sight of how far we still have to go,” said Ander.
“The last two years have been exceptionally high when it comes to gun violence in our city,” Ander said. “There’s a bigger security gap than ever in our city, between the safest neighborhoods and the least safe.”
Ander said the pandemic and civil unrest have exacerbated gun violence in neighborhoods already facing resource shortages. The closure of schools, social and mental health programs, and a “crisis in government and police legitimacy” all resulted in “pulling out people’s safety net,” leading to persistently higher rates of violence, Ander said.
“Gun violence has a big reverberation effect,” Ander said. “That really has to be a top priority.”