Chicago’s Interim Police Superintendent John Escalante said Wednesday that an uptick in shootings and violence across the city has made for a “frustrating start” to 2016.
“We do know that we’re facing a serious challenge right now in terms of the spike that we’ve seen in crime and, despite having some successes in other crime categories, we know that the focus is on the violent crime and it’s definitely a daunting issue for the department,” he said during a news conference.
Last weekend, seven people were killed and 30 others were wounded in shootings citywide, including a man who was fatally shot about a half mile away from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home. Eleven others were shot Tuesday, bringing the total number of shootings for the year to more than 125.
Escalante noted that the majority of the shootings in the city this year have been gang-related and said the department is focusing their efforts on gang activity and illegal guns.
He added that gang conflicts in the city are being heavily driven by social media, where members are “taunting and challenging” rival gangs.
“It’s the modern way of gang graffiti,” he said.
Police also announced during the news conference that a 16-year-old boy was charged in connection with a shooting that left two teens dead and a third boy wounded in 2016's first double homicide.
The teen has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the killings of 16-year-old Donta Parker and 17-year-old Sakinah Reed on Jan. 5. He's also charged with wounding another 16-year-old boy who was shot in the hand and ankle.
Police reported a total of 16 homicides just nine days into the New Year. Between Jan. 1 and Jan. 7, there were 12 homicides and 62 shootings, including homicides, according to police.
On Friday, Jan. 8, there were a total of four homicides, according to investigators. Police did not give an exact total on overall shootings, but estimated a total to be approximately 18.
Still, the shooting death totals for this month and January of 2015 pale in comparison to January of 2013, where the total number of shooting deaths reached 40, according to police.
Over the past week, a national spotlight has been cast on crime in Chicago. President Barack Obama spoke about gun violence plaguing the city during two publicized events.
On Tuesday, the president gave an emotional speech on gun control while talking about the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting from three years ago. "Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad," he said, wiping a tear from his eye. "And, by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day."
Later that week during a Town Hall meeting in Fairfax, Virginia, President Barack Obama also spoke to a teenager whose brother was killed in a shooting in Chicago.
“When I see you I think about my own youth, because I wasn’t that different as you,” said the president. “But the main difference was I lived in a more forgiving environment. If I screwed up, I wasn’t at risk of getting shot. I’d get a second chance. There were a bunch of folks who were looking out for me and there weren’t a lot of guns on the streets. And that’s how all kids should be growing up, wherever they live."