Civil rights and community leaders in Chicago, Illinois, are grappling to find answers to stem the growing homicide rate and gun violence in America’s third largest city.
According to data released Thursday by the Chicago police department, the city recorded 90 murders in the month of August, making it the most violent month the city has experienced in more than two decades.
Chicago hasn’t recorded 90 murders in a month since June 1996, when Chicago and other major cities across the United States were grappling with gang warfare in the midst of the crack-cocaine epidemic.
Chicago has already recorded 471 homicides, about 50 percent more murders than the city recorded at the same point last year and more killings than New York City and Los Angeles combined.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city’s police department often point to gang violence and the easy availability of guns for the spike in homicides and gun violence.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson has blamed the recent surge in killings on increased gang activity and gun laws he says are too weak to be an effective deterrent.
“The historical cycle of violence we have seen in some communities must come to an end,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said.
“Repeat gun offenders who drive the violence on our streets should not be there in the first place, and it is time to changes the laws to ensure these violent offenders are held accountable for their crimes,” Johnson said.
Some politicians and activists said the gun violence epidemic won’t be solved until government officials at the federal, state and city level create jobs and other opportunities in the most violence-plagued neighborhoods.
On Thursday, civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson urged US President Barack Obama to convene a meeting on urban gun violence and to come visit his adopted hometown to talk about the issue.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), firearms are the cause of death for more than 33,000 people in the United States every year, a number that includes accidental discharge, murder, and suicides.