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When it comes to violent crime, Chicago is in a class of its own

A new report shows what most Chicagoans already know: national crime rates do not apply to the Windy City. In fact, you can't really understand national crime stats at all without understanding Chicago crime rates, especially when it comes to homicide.

Of the 30 largest cities in the U.S., only Chicago is seeing significant increases in violent crime and murder in both 2015 and 2016, according to a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

Chicago is an outlier

Meanwhile, nationally, crime and violent crime remain near all-time lows. And the rise in the national murder rate is driven largely by - you guessed it - Chicago.

There were 493 murders in Chicago in 2015, and the researchers are projecting the 2016 total will be about 727, more than a 47% increase over last year. Sure, crime rates fluctuate from year to year, but this doesn't seem to be within the realm of normal fluctuation.

Chicago's murder stats dwarf those of the nation's two largest cities: New York had 352 murders last year, and L.A. 283, with the murder rates projected to stay close to the same this year.

What's happening in our city?

The researchers point to a few theories that could account for this trend, including:

  • The increase in violent crime is being driven largely by a small number of repeat offenders.
  • The Chicago Police Department has been losing detectives (more than 300 since 2008), making it harder to investigate crimes.
  • Most of the violent crime is gang-related and occurring in poor, segregated parts of the city.

One thing is clear: you can't talk about national crime rates without talking about Chicago.

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