CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago will end 2016 with nearly 800 murders, a level of bloodshed not seen in two decades, as city leaders struggle to find a solution to the surge in gun violence this year.
As of Thursday morning, there had been at least 768 homicides in Chicago in 2016, the highest number since 1996, when there were 796.
That point will be dramatically driven home this weekend. At noon on New Year’s Eve, an Aurora man known for placing crosses at the scenes of shooting massacres and other tragedies will place an estimated 760 crosses in a vacant lot in the West Englewood neighborhood.
Zanis, 66, said he has been building one cross for every person slain in Chicago this year, but it has been hard to keep up.
Before the crosses are placed in a vacant lot at 5539 S. Bishop St., Rev. Michael Pfleger and the families of many of the city’s murder victims will carry them along Michigan Avenue in a peace march Saturday morning. The event will start at 11 a.m. at Tribune Tower, followed by a march to the Water Tower, before the crosses are transported to Englewood.
Zanis also built crosses for the victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre and the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.
Chicago’s surging violence has come under national scrutiny.
On Sunday, 60 Minutes will broadcast a report examining whether police morale in the wake of the Laquan McDonald shooting has contributed to the problem by emboldening hardcore gang members and killers who it seems are sometimes taunting police.
“Police are feeling that they’re being asked to do perhaps even an unfair job, as many city services are cut back, jobs are lost. The police feel that they’re having to step in and be social workers, and mental health workers, as well as police,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker also spoke to South Side and West Side residents who believe they no longer are being protected by police.
“You’ve got folks in many neighborhoods on the South Side and West Side of Chicago who are distrustful of the police. You put those two together – the police feeling besieged and the neighborhoods feeling besieged and distrustful of police – and you have, in the words of former Superintendent McCarthy, a city in crisis,” Whitaker said.
Police officials have said legislation that would crack down on repeat gun offenders would help address the city’s violent crime problem. The measure is expected to pass early next year in Springfield.