Mekhi James' mother holds a photo of her 3-year-old son at a vigil for shooting victims in Austin. Credit: Pascal Sabino / Block Club Chicago

CHICAGO — Murders and shootings in July increased drastically from 2019, according to new data released by the Chicago Police.

Chicago had 105 murders in July, more than double the 44 in July 2019, and 584 shooting victims is also up dramatically from the same period last year, with 308 reported in July 2019. July was the most violent month in 28 years, according to the Tribune.

July’s largest incident happened July 21, when 15 people were shot outside a funeral home in Gresham. The youngest victims in July include a baby shot on July 27 while riding in a car on the Bishop Ford Expressway in the Far South Side, a 3-year-old girl shot and seriously wounded in South Shore, and a 5-month-old baby shot and wounded in Old Town July 16. 

So far this year, murders have nearly doubled from 2019, with 440 from January through July, up from 232 last year.

Still, overall crime has decreased in the city, according to police data. Chicago Police reported a 26 percent decline in thefts and 19 percent decline in criminal sexual assault in July. So far this year, police report a 5 percent increase in gun arrests to more than 3,700 from last year.

Max Kapustin, senior research director at the University of Chicago Crime Lab, said the violence will not stop overnight.

“The last time we had one of these episodes in 2016, it went on for a while. It went on for almost  a year or more in some places,” Kapustin said.

“In the long run, it can happen. We saw it happen in New York and Chicago and other cities in the 1990s. Crime can go down. The difficult thing is knowing what exactly to invest in to do that,” he said.

On Monday, Chicago Police announced the arrest of a suspect after the killing of 9-year-old Janari Ricks Friday in the Cabrini Green neighborhood — an arrest police largely credited to neighbors who spoke up about the crime. Speaking at a press conference, Police Supt. David Brown said he hoped the case would be an example for other communities dealing with gun violence.

“Without the community, we can’t do our job. We need the community to help us whenever we have violence to be able to solve these crimes,” Brown said.

He also says he understands the reluctance of some but urged them to “take a leap of faith.”

“I know the thoughts are, ‘I’m safer because now the suspect is not focusing on me.’ But these suspects running the streets of Chicago kill other people, likely kill the people near you. So, the fact that you don’t come forward renders you less safe,” Brown said.

“I would encourage you to take a leap of faith and come forward to Chicago PD if you have any information on any violent crime so that we could all be safer by taking these people off the street.”

Janai was one of 24 children under 10 years old shot in Chicago this year and five killed, according to an analysis from the Chicago Tribune published Monday.

In a press release Monday, Chicago Police also touted the recent formation of two units, the Community Safety Team and the Critical Incident Response Team, which the department hopes will decrease gun violence.

The Community Safety Team, made up of 300 officers, will also be tasked with participating in community service projects such as food drives, prayer circles, and other events with neighborhood block clubs and churches in order to build relationships and restore trust with the community. 

The Critical Incident Response Team team will consist of about 250 officers that will focus on controlling crowds at large protests and crime hot spots downtown.

Kapustin said there are pros and cons for police teams that are not based in one area.

“There actually is a lot of evidence for it being effective. The thing is though, when you have units that are not tied to geography, they aren’t beat cops, they are more like a roving squad, my guess would be that they would disproportionately account for some of the negative externalities of policing,” Kapustin said. 

“The kind of officers that probably self select into that, the kind of locations they are sent and the fact that they don’t have a real geographic link to those locations — they don’t normally work in those locations; my guess is that it’s going to account for a disproportionate share of complaints.”

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