By DON BABWIN | Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago reached a grim milestone in August as 78 homicides pushed the number for the year well past the 500 mark — a total that included the first police officer in the city to be killed in the line of duty in nearly three years.
The police department announced Wednesday that there were 14 more homicides in August than there were in August 2020, bringing the total for 2021 to 524. That was enough to put the city, which before the month began was on a pace to end 2021 with fewer homicides than 2020, instead on a pace to eclipse last year's total of 769.
It also marked the continuation of a particularly bloody summer. Not only were nearly 500 people shot in August, but the month followed a July that ended with 105 homicides.
The totals are discouraging for a police department that as recently as early June said that the drop in shootings over Memorial Day weekend coincided with the rollout of a new strategy in which police, educators and library workers were dispatched to some of the most violent neighborhoods.
On Wednesday, there was no encouraging talk about new tactics or new programs from police Superintendent David Brown.
"We deeply understand how important it is for our residents to feel safe within our neighborhoods across the city," said Brown said in a statement. "We are retooling our crime fighting strategies to stop the spike in crimes that we are seeing so we can bring a greater sense of safety to our communities."
The department pointed to significant drops in the number of burglaries, robberies and aggravated batteries. But it was in paying tribute to Officer Ella French, who was fatally shot Aug. 7 during a traffic stop, that the department offered some good news about another officer who was shot along with her and critically wounded.
"We remain encouraged by the progress of her partner, Officer Carlos Yanez Jr., who was recently transferred to a rehabilitation facility," according to the news release. The statement said he'd shown "strength ... in his heroic fight."