Confronted with the bloodiest weekend in Chicago since being named police superintendent six weeks ago, Eddie Johnson on Monday called the gun violence “completely unacceptable” and said the dozens of shootings highlight “the uphill battle” confronting police.
More than 50 people were shot, eight fatally, between Friday afternoon and early Monday, the city’s most violent weekend since the end of September, according to a Tribune analysis.
The tally included a 3 1/2-hour period early Saturday when one man was killed and 14 others were wounded — the equivalent of someone being shot every 14 minutes.
Chicago is already closing in on 200 homicides as the city endures its worst violence since the late 1990s. At this rate, the city is on pace to top 500 homicides for the year for only the second time since 2008.
At an unrelated news conference Monday on the city’s Southwest Side, Johnson brought up the Mother’s Day weekend violence himself in his prepared remarks. He focused his remarks on how much of the bloodshed is being driven by about 1,300 individuals on the Police Department’s “strategic subject list” — those believed to be most prone to violence as a victim or offender.
About 78 percent of the homicide victims and about 84 percent of the nonfatal shooting victims this weekend were on the list, he said.
“That means essentially we know who they are,” he told reporters at 49th Street and South Karlov Avenue, where a Chicago police officer fatally shot a bank robbery suspect on Monday. “Oftentimes, they have gang affiliations, and many have had previous arrests and convictions.”
He then ticked off nearly 10 examples of how many arrests these victims had on their records, ranging from 20 each all the way up to 41.
As his predecessor, Garry McCarthy, often did, Johnson lamented how many of these offenders “cycle through the criminal justice system,” often serving less than half their prison terms before returning back to the street to commit “the same acts of violence or worse,” he said.
He stressed that the Police Department “can’t do it alone,” calling on “colleagues in the judicial system, elected officials, community members, religious leaders and parents to help us in the fight.”
While much of the weekend violence was concentrated as usual in impoverished pockets of the South and West sides, the shootings were spread across the city. Two people were shot on Chicago-area highways, including a 35-year-old man who died after being shot in the back on Lake Shore Drive on the North Side.
The weekend’s youngest homicide victim was 16-year-old Nathan Hicks, who was shot in the chest as he stood on a sidewalk in East Garfield Park on the West Side. The oldest was a 58-year-old man killed at his dinner table when a bullet pierced the front door of his Southwest Side home in Archer Heights and hit him in the head. Police believe the shooting was gang-related but that the victim, identified as Andres Rivera, was not the intended target.
The burst of violence comes on the heels of a new poll that shows a widening disparity in how whites and blacks in Chicago view the safety of their neighborhoods.
According to the poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the New York Times, 41 percent of black respondents felt “not safe at all” or “not too safe” compared with 17 percent of white respondents. The poll also found that 44 percent of blacks rated their neighborhoods as a poor place to raise their children, compared with 16 percent of whites.
In addition, 49 percent of blacks said it was very likely that a young person in their neighborhood would be a victim of crime, compared with 19 percent of whites.
The violence has been on the rise since the beginning of the year, raising concerns with the hot summer months fast approaching.
On April 20, Chicago reached 1,000 shooting victims for the year, six to nine weeks earlier than in the previous four years, according to data compiled by the Tribune. That grim milestone, for instance, wasn’t reached until June 4 last year.
Perhaps even more troubling, this marks the third consecutive year in which Chicago has seen double-digit increases in shootings.
Not surprisingly, homicides are also soaring in Chicago. Through Sunday, 196 people have been killed, a 55 percent increase over the 126 victims a year earlier, official Police Department figures show.
Police officials have taken some solace that the percentage increase in homicides slowed noticeably in April. But Johnson made no mention of that on Monday after 51 people were shot over the weekend.
The violence, he said, “is being driven by the 1,300 individuals who we already know” — a reference to those on the strategic subject list, compiled with the aid of a computerized algorithm.
The Tribune highlighted an earlier version of the list in a story in 2013. The department has warned those on the list that police are keeping an eye on them while also extending them an offer of help in obtaining a job or social services.
Johnson saved his harshest criticism for a criminal justice system that he said isn’t putting away the city’s most dangerous offenders for long enough periods.
“Until we have real truth in sentencing and hold these offenders accountable, this will be the unfortunate reality in the city of Chicago,” he said of the violence.
Johnson said area deputy chiefs and district commanders have put plans in place to tackle the violence over the summer when it typically peaks, but he was mum on details.
In recent years, the department has boosted overtime spending by $100 million or more a year to put more officers on the street, particularly during the summer.
“The summertime always gives us cause for concern, but, of course, we’re not going to give our game plan out to the people who would take advantage of it,” Johnson said with a chuckle.
Chicago Tribune’s Megan Crepeau contributed.
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