Chicago saw its deadliest year in two decades in 2016, closing the year with 762 homicides — surpassing the number in New York and Los Angeles combined — and over 4,000 shooting victims.
Meanwhile, according to an analysis from the Chicago Sun-Times, the number of arrests went down by 28 percent from last year — reaching its lowest rate since 2001 and half that of 2010. During the first three months of 2016, police recorded just 20,908 investigative stops. During the same period in 2015, that number was 157,346 — showing a decrease by 86 percent from one year to the next.
That pattern continued throughout the year. In August of 2015, the police stopped 49,257 people. This past August, that number was 8,859 — reflecting an 82 percent decrease.
But the city's former police chief believes Black Lives Matter protesters are to blame for the surge in violence. In an interview with John Catsimatidis, Garry McCarthy said protesters have created a "political atmosphere of anti-police sentiment."
"The simplest way to describe it is we've created an environment where we have emboldened criminals," he said.
"So what's happening, and this is ironic," he continued, "is that a movement with the goal of saving Black lives at this point is getting black lives taken, because 80 percent of our murder victims here in Chicago are male blacks. Less than half of one percent of all the shootings in this city involve police officers shooting civilians. But one shooting, and granted it's a bad shooting … But the solutions that are being applied as a result of that particular incident have it that people are dying in record numbers here."
The result, McCarthy said, is "a state of lawlessness across this country, the non-compliance with the police and the encouragement of young people not to comply with the police, and the legitimizing of that non-compliance."
"But because of one incident here, the Laquan McDonald incident, the Department of Justice is here investigating our patterns and practices, and quite frankly I don't think the police know what they're supposed to do, what's expected of them today," he said.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel stood by police superintendent until very end but was forced to change his mind. Protesters say more still remains to be done.
McCarthy was fired from his position in 2015 after video footage of 17-year-old McDonald's shooting death was released. The video, which the city of Chicago resisted releasing for more than a year, shows McDonald being shot while walking away from police — and continuing to be shot while already lying motionless on the ground. McDonald was shot 16 times in total.
McCarthy pointed to the "Ferguson effect," an unfounded belief that claims police officers are afraid to do their jobs for fear of public scrutiny — or being featured on the next viral video. He said he is "hopeful that the new attorney general, Mr. Sessions, is going to kind of calm this whole thing down as far as restricting the police from being able to do their job and strengthening the criminals."
The city's current police chief, Eddie Johnson, made similar statements in a press conference. According to Johnson, anger toward police officers has "emboldened" criminals to commit crimes.
FBI Director James Comey last year made the same implications about police being afraid to do their jobs — and was met with public backlash from leaders in law enforcement as well as the White House.
"Director Comey's recent comments about a 'viral video effect' are unfounded, and frankly, damaging to the efforts of law enforcement," said Ronal Serpas, chairman of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration.
Director Comey again makes unfounded statement that cops not doing their jobs out of fear of being caught on video, is called "irresponsible" and "counterproductive."
The White House criticized Comey for drawing conclusions without any factual basis. "This administration makes policy decisions that are rooted in evidence, that are rooted in science," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. "We can't make broad, sweeping policy decisions or draw policy conclusions based on anecdotal evidence. That's irresponsible and ultimately counterproductive."
Earnest emphasized that "there's not evidence at this point to link that surge in violent crime to the so-called viral video effect, or the Ferguson effect. There's just no evidence to substantiate that."