There’s violent crime aplenty in Chicago. But punishment? Not so much.
Murders nationwide in 2020 rose a stunning 29.4 percent over the previous year, the largest annual increase since the FBI began tracking that data in the 1960s. The number of murders in Chicago climbed even more sharply, rising 55 percent. It was as if a switch had been flipped. At least ten major U.S. cities hit new murder highs in 2021, but Chicago led the way with 797, the city’s highest number in 25 years.
Chicago’s violent crime epidemic is not limited to murder. The city’s 3,561 shooting incidents in 2021 were up 63 percent over 2019. Expressway shootings in Chicago-Cook County rose even more dramatically, from 51 in 2019 to 130 in 2020 to 273 in 2021. These expressway shootings pushed Chicago’s actual 2021 murder total north of 800.
Expressway killings aren’t counted in the official city numbers because expressways are under state jurisdiction. But try telling that to Chicagoans. “It’s almost like a modern, 21st century form of dueling,” said Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly. “[People get into fights with] each other on social media, they threaten one another and they say . . . ‘Let’s take this out to the expressway.’”
One of Chicago’s expressway murder victims was a dearly loved wife, mother, grandmother, and special education teacher named Denise Huguelet. Sixty-seven years old, she was being driven home from a White Sox game last summer when she became collateral damage in a shootout on the Dan Ryan Expressway.
Then there are the carjackings, 1,836 of them in Chicago in 2021—a 204 percent increase over 2019. One victim was a Democratic state senator. Her husband had a gun and returned fire. In another incident, a Cook County judge had to pull her three-year-old son to safety before the carjackers drove off.