CHICAGO (CBS) — With at least 81 homicides as of Wednesday morning, this August already is the most violent month in Chicago in nearly 20 years, and it isn’t quite over yet.
Chicago hasn’t seen that many murders since October 1996, when there were 85 homicides.
Another horrible distinction for Chicago: the total number of homicides so far this year is more than New York City and Los Angeles combined. So far, at least 487 people have been slain in Chicago this year, compared to 490 all of last year. New York has had 222 homicides, and Los Angeles has had 176, and both cities have much larger populations.
According to the Chicago Police Department, homicides are up more than 50 percent compared to this time last year.
The city’s top cop has said the criminal justice system in the city is partly to blame for gun violence in Chicago; for being, in his view, ridiculously soft on gun offenses.
“There’s too many people out here with illegal guns that’s willing to use them. So I need for these people – that subsection of people – I need for them to know that you will be held accountable as much as we can if you continue those actions,” Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said.
The latest shooting death was a 20-year-old man who was killed when he was shot in the back in the Pilsen neighborhood. An 18-year-old man wounded in the same shooting was in serious condition at Stroger Hospital.
Overall shootings are also up significantly this year, with more than 2,800 people shot so far this year, compared to 2,988 people shot all last year.
“My God, what do we respond to that?” Rev. Michael Pfleger said.
Pfleger, the outspoken pastor of St. Sabina Church, was organizing a “Violence (Enough Is Enough) meeting Wednesday evening, followed by a march through the Auburn Gresham neighborhood. He said it won’t be an ordinary peace march.
“We’re going to go out, and we’re going to do some actual civil disobedience to say we’re going to interrupt business as usual. We can’t just get numb to numbers that are off the chart,” Pfleger said.
While the activist pastor wouldn’t say what he and others plan to do, he did say what he wants.
“A calling for a state of emergency by the governor,” he said. “We need federal funds; to hire more police, to get jobs, to get economic development.”
Meantime, a candlelight vigil also was planned for Wednesday night in Oak Park, where 16-year-old Elijah Sims lived. Sims was shot Monday night while out with friends in his old neighborhood in Chicago. He died Tuesday morning, a day before he would have turned 17.