After three consecutive years of declines in violence, Chicago’s homicides and shootings have spiked in January, raising the concern of Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
“I talked to the superintendent about it this morning,” Lightfoot said Friday in answer to a reporter’s question after an event to announce federal funding to fight homelessness. “We cannot afford to take our foot off the gas.”
As of Friday morning, the last day of the month, homicides jumped by 50% to 33, up from 22 a year earlier, according to official police statistics. Shooting incidents also rose 36% to 132, up from 97 a year earlier, the statistics show.
Both Lightfoot and interim police Superintendent Charlie Beck — in comments Thursday — mentioned several domestic-related homicides, including a triple killing on Jan. 2 in the South Shore neighborhood, as a factor in the jump.
Frigid temperatures brought in part by the infamous polar vortex at the end of January 2019 dropped the average temperature in Chicago to 21 degrees, 2.8 degrees below normal, according to the National Weather Service. The city also saw a little over 18 inches of snow that month.
By contrast, temperatures have averaged 30 degrees through the first 30 days of this year, said Mark Ratzer, a weather service meteorologist. Chicago has also had only about 7 inches of snow so far this year.
“It’s only the first month, and this is a very different month than last January as anybody that lived in Chicago knows,” said Beck, who expects violence to fall off from year-earlier levels as 2020 continues. “We’re taking this seriously. … This has been a tough first month.”
Lightfoot acknowledged to reporters that the homicide and shooting numbers “are much higher than what we would have expected,” but she would not use the cold weather as an excuse.
“We can’t presume that just because the weather now is cold that somehow people are not going to be shooting at each other,” she said. “Because clearly, in this month, we’ve seen that.”