CHICAGO—Murders here surpassed the 700 mark Thursday, a somber tally not seen since the drug wars of the 1990s as the police department continues reforms aimed at regaining public trust.
Police say that 77 were killed in the month of November alone, which saw 316 shooting incidents and 389 victims. As of Dec. 1, 701 people had been murdered across Chicago, making this year the most violent since 1998.
Amid the spike, police are struggling to solve the murders and lock up those responsible, with just a fifth of homicides cleared so far this year. Back in 1998, more than half of murders were solved in the same year.
“The levels of violence we have seen this year in some of our communities is absolutely unacceptable,” said Superintendent Eddie Johnson in a statement Thursday. “CPD will use every tool available to hold violent offenders accountable and will continue to work strategically to address crime and uphold its commitment to rebuild public trust.”
The uptick comes at a time when Chicago police are implementing a series of reforms aimed at regaining community trust following the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014. New police top brass have been installed, a new use of force policy is being written up and the way police misconduct is handled has been overhauled.
Criminologists say that community support—badly dented after the release of a video showing the shooting of Mr. McDonald—is crucial in solving crime and preventing more violence.
Police are also focusing on keeping guns off the streets of Chicago, a city surrounded by states that have more lenient gun laws. Chicago police have confiscated nearly 8,000 guns so far this year—a 20% increase over 2015. Gun arrests are also up approximately 8%, compared with the same period in 2015.