Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast, AP
CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago saw its deadliest Memorial Day weekend for gun violence since 2015, a jarring reminder that even a coronavirus pandemic and a statewide stay-at-home order cannot halt shootings in the city.
“The violence throughout the city on Memorial Day weekend was nothing short of alarming,” Chicago police Superintendent David Brown told the media Tuesday after the first major test of his tenure as the city’s top officer ended with 49 people being shot, 10 of them fatally.
The figures included shootings that occured from Friday afternoon to early Tuesday morning of the holiday weekend.
It was more homicides than Chicago had for the same weekend of the last four years, according to data maintained by the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. In 2015, 12 people were killed over the holiday weekend.
Brown said most of the violence involved rival gangs and clashes over the sale of illegal drugs.
Violence has typically spiked over long warm weather holiday weekends of Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day. But if there was any expectation that it might drop this year because of the pandemic, Brown suggested that it was possible the coronavirus and the stay-at-home order may have actually had the opposite effect.
“The effects of the coronavirus also go beyond hospitalizations,” he said. “People are feeling restless after being cooped up for weeks.”
In fact, Chicago police issued approximately 300 group dispersal orders each day of the long weekend. At one large gathering where gunfire was heard, police made two arrests and seized two guns.
Over the long weekend, police took possession of a total of 216 firearms — 68 more, Brown said, than officers recovered over the same period last year.
Brown did not say how many extra officers were on the street during this year compared with previous years, but he did acknowledge there were fewer.
“We did not utilize the normal thousand additional officers,” he said. “We had several hundred that were dedicated, and coordinated a little bit better.”
Brown did not discuss the reasons for putting fewer officers on the street, but last year Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she was “angry and frustrated” about the overtime that police officers racked up.
The weekend highlighted that even while the pandemic has kept so many people home and temporarily shuttered businesses, homicides in Chicago are on the rise this year. According to police crime statistics posted online, between Jan. 1 and May 24, the city had 200 homicides, compared with 176 during the same period last year. The number of shooting incidents climbed from 679 to 826. However, the number of criminal sexual assaults, burglaries and thefts all fell by double digits.
The statistics largely mirror what police in Los Angeles in New York have reported. In both cities, the number of homicides has increased so far this year while the number of sexual assaults has fallen. In St. Louis, at least 63 people have been victims of homicides, about the same pace as last year, when the city saw 194 killings.
Williams reported from West Bloomfield, Mich.