Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY
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CHICAGO — Murders in the nation's third-largest city are up about 72%, while shootings have surged more than 88% in the first three months of 2016 compared with the same period last year, according to data released Friday by the Chicago Police Department.
Police said the disturbing rise in violence is driven by gangs and mostly contained to a handful of pockets on the city's South and West sides.
“While CPD will remain tireless in its efforts to hold criminals accountable for their actions, we all have a part to play in creating a safer Chicago,” newly appointed interim Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a statement. “In the coming weeks and months, I plan on meeting with and listening to a range of Chicagoans — from activists and elected officials to ministers and parents — to find ways that we can come together to build mutual trust and lasting partnerships that will make our streets safer for everyone.”
The city has seen 141 murders this year, compared with 82 murders at the same point last year. Police reported 677 shootings this year compared with 359 at the same point last year.
The grim rise in violence comes after the Chicago Police Department reported 468 murders in 2015, a 12.5% increase from the year before. There were 2,900 shootings in 2015, 13% more than the year before, according to Police Department records.
The rise in violence comes as the police department reported a decrease in investigative stops by cops on the streets during the first two months of the year. The police department entered an agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union, which went into effect Jan. 1, to record contact cards for all street stops after the organization criticized the city's police for disproportionately targeting minorities for questioning and searches.
Police complained that the new forms were too time-consuming to fill out. Officers were allowed to begin using more simplified forms at the beginning of March. The department said gun arrests have increased significantly since the new forms were put in place.
Police noted that there has been some progress in slowing the pace of the rising violence.
In March, murders rose by 29% compared with increases of 75% in January and 126% in February.
Overall, the month of March saw 45 murders and 271 shooting incidents.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed Johnson as his new interim superintendent this week and hopes he can help stem the violence.
Johnson replaced John Escalante, who took over the department in December after Emanuel fired Superintendent Garry McCarthy. McCarthy was ousted in the aftermath of the court-ordered release of dashcam video that showed a white police officer fatally shooting a black teen 16 times on a city street. The video of Laquan McDonald's death spurred weeks of protests in the city.
Johnson has had success fighting crime, the mayor's office says. As deputy chief of patrol in a huge swath of the city's South Side in 2013, Johnson's area of command saw a 32% drop in crime, according to the mayor's office.
"We have a challenge right now, specifically but not limited to the South and West Sides," Emanuel said this week. "We have a level of shootings and gun violence that's unacceptable and must come to an end. It means we have to have a leadership and lead from the front and get not only our officers' morale level up but our violence level down."