One of the most violent years in Chicago history ended with a sobering tally: 762 homicides, the most in two decades in the city and more than New York and Los Angeles combined. The nation's third largest city also saw 1,100 more shooting incidents last year than it did in 2015, according to data released Sunday by the Chicago Police Department. The statistics underline a story of bloodshed that has put Chicago at the center of a national dialogue about gun violence. The numbers are staggering, even for those who followed the steady news accounts of weekends ending with dozens of shootings, the AP reports. The increase in homicides compared to 2015, when 485 were reported, is the largest spike in 60 years.
Police and city officials have lamented the flood of illegal guns into the city, and the crime statistics appeared to support their claims: Police recovered 8,300 illegal guns in 2016, a 20% increase from the previous year. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said during a news conference Sunday that anger at police, including in the wake of video released that showed a white Chicago officer shooting a black teenager 16 times, has left criminals "emboldened" to violent crimes. He also said it's becoming clearer to criminals that they have little to fear from the criminal justice system. "In Chicago, we just don't have a deterrent to pick up a gun," he said. "Any time a guy stealing a loaf of bread spends more time pre-trial in jail than a gun offender, something is wrong." (Read more Chicago stories.)