In Chicago, 35,000 people have been murdered in 50 years

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A protester walks past a line of police officers standing guard in front of the District 1 police headquarters in Chicago, Illinois November 24, 2015. Photo by REUTERS/Frank Polich

Tune into the PBS NewsHour tonight for an in-depth report on what’s being done to address violence in Chicago.

From 1965 to Labor Day weekend this year, more than 35,100 people — roughly the population of Tupelo, Mississippi — were murdered in Chicago, according to Chicago Police Department records and the Chicago Tribune.

The deadliest year occurred in 1974, when homicides took 970 lives. But the past two years have also seen a sharp rise in mounting violence.

So far this year, Chicago reported 507 homicides, which surpassed all 473 murders in the city during 2015, according to this Chicago Tribune analysis.

Illegal firearms still flow into the city, feeding violent crime despite Chicago’s strict gun laws. To measure that inflow, Chicago Police Department tracks the number of seized illegal guns.



Source: Chicago Police Department and Chicago Tribune

As of Sept. 6, the Chicago Police Department confiscated 6,043 guns, a 22-percent increase over the 4,952 firearms officers confiscated last year, according to Anthony Guglielmi, the department’s director of communications.

Chicago police officers seize one illegal gun every 59 minutes on average, during search warrants, traffic stops and investigations, he said. Guns range from AK-47 models to sawed-off shotguns and homemade handguns.

“Every year, we just seem to find an increasing number of guns. We know this year, it’s just going to get higher,” he said, adding that illegal guns are often involved in violent crime.

Chicago’s gun laws are not strong enough, Guglielmi said.

“This hamster wheel is not going to be slowed down anytime soon,” he said.

Lance Williams is an associate professor of urban affairs at Northeastern Illinois University and a youth advocate. He says Chicago’s latest violent trends also stem from poverty and unemployment. The two combine to leave Chicago’s young black men feeling penned in, he said. Nearly half of Chicago’s black men age 20 to 24 are unemployed, according to a report from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Great Cities Institute.

“You can hire all of the police that you want, you’re not going to solve this problem because these young men are acting in alignment with their cultural value system,” Williams told the NewsHour in a report that will air Wednesday.

“They just see their lives, you know, just passing them by,” Williams said. “They haven’t been to school. They’re not, you know, qualified for, for jobs. There are no businesses, viable businesses in their neighborhood, so they’re really depressed, and then they’re self-medicated through drinking and drugging, and the only individuals around them are other young African American males like themselves, who have these same forms of depression.”

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