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2020 Chicago Crime Spike: Carjackings More Than Double, Homicides Up More Than 50%

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Attempted carjackings in Chicago have skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, reaching a 20-year high in 2020. That's one statistic the Chicago Police Department seemed to brush by in its end of year crime report, which boasts an overall reduction in crime.

Specifically the report notes a drop in burglaries and robberies, but 2020 brought highs in violent crime in Chicago. Homicides were up more than 50%, and shootings continued to be a problem just minutes into the new year.

Two people in South Chicago welcomed the new year as victims of gunfire, just 12 minutes into 2021. As they sat in their living room, a man was struck in the head and a woman was grazed in the head when someone shot from outside.

It is unfortunately a familiar scene from 2020. Last year saw more than 3,200 shootings in Chicago and more than 4,000 victims. That was up 50% from the year before. Murders were also up 50%.

Seven-year-old Natalia Wallace was just one of the 769 victims in 2020. She was shot and killed in her grandma's front yard on the Fourth of July.

Police point to the pandemic and civil unrest as drivers of crime -- even against officers. A recent record 79 officers were shot or shot at.

But the biggest crime story of 2020 is carjackings, especially on the city's West Side. The number more than doubled citywide from 603 in 2019 to more than 1,400 in 2020, the highest totals in nearly two decades.

Criminologists say to see a shift in culture, a focus should be addressing a lack of resources, the economic and mental health crises, especially among young adults.

"The population of the ages between 18 and 24 are experiencing record high unemployment rates as well as reporting really high instances of mental health and substance abuse," said Kimberly Smith of the  University of Chicago Crime Lab.

Chicago police did take an aggressive approach in 2020 to connect with communities of high crime, but as 2020 exposed rifts between police and the public nationwide, it deepened the need for change.

"And I think there is a lot of work being done in Chicago to reimagine public safety and identify other non-police or criminal justice system levers," said Smith.

Chicago police outline more mental health support for officers and a focus on closing homicide cases and getting guns off the street. More than 11,000 firearms were taken, and there were 7,200 gun related arrests.

Data from across Cook County also shows record breaking increases in violent crime. The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed 875 gun related homicides in 2020, breaking the previous record of 838 set in 1994. The office released the grim statistic along with other preliminary case data for 2020 Friday.

The office handled a total of 970 homicides in 2020. That's a more than 40% increase over 2019's total of 675. Black people were the victims of 78% of homicides and Latinos accounted for more than 16% of homicide deaths. Eighty-nine percent of homicide deaths were males. Seventy homicide deaths were people under 18; 22 were under the age of 10. The majority of homicides were in the City of Chicago.

The last time Cook County saw more than 970 homicides was in 1996.

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