Homicides And Shootings Are Down As The City Stays At Home To Avoid Virus

Chicago Police Car
The city has had only one homicide in the last seven days, something that hasn’t happened since 2015. Bill Healy / WBEZ
Chicago Police Car
The city has had only one homicide in the last seven days, something that hasn’t happened since 2015. Bill Healy / WBEZ

Homicides And Shootings Are Down As The City Stays At Home To Avoid Virus

Chicago’s gun violence has slowed as the city battles COVID-19 and residents practice social distancing and isolation.

The city has had only one homicide in the last seven days.

Chicago has not had a one-homicide week in more than five years, according to a WBEZ analysis of data from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.

“The coronavirus crisis is reducing people’s exposure to risk, keeping them inside, keeping them out of risky places, keeping them out of bars and restaurants,” said Wesley G. Skogan, a Northwestern University political scientist who studies crime.

The city’s slowdown in violence took hold March 19, two days before Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order took effect.

The one homicide victim over the last week was a 38-year-old man who suffered gunshot wounds to his head, torso, hand and leg on Sunday at 12:50 a.m., according to police.

Chicago had not gone a full week with only one homicide since a nine-day stretch in February 2015, when temperatures plunged three times to single digits.

Over the past seven days, the city’s violence has been down but has not disappeared. Since March 19, Chicago has had 35 nonfatal shooting victims, including 12 on Wednesday.

But as the fight against COVID-19 drives down homicides, other factors could push them back up, Skogan warned.

One is the spring weather.

“It’s getting warmer and, when the season is warmer, there’s always a lot more street activity and street excitement,” Skogan said.

Another factor that could eventually encourage violence stems from closing Chicago schools to combat the virus.

“There’s simply a lot more kids at home — all day, every day — driving their parents crazy and driving themselves crazy, gathering in groups as teenagers will,” Skogan said.

Chicago had 517 homicides last year, according to medical examiner’s data. The city’s homicide numbers have been trending down since the summer of 2017.

WBEZ digital editor Elliott Ramos contributed data analysis. Follow him at @ChicagoEl.

Chip Mitchell reports out of WBEZ’s West Side studio about criminal justice. Follow him at @ChipMitchell1.