The Chicago 800, Update on Murder Counts

As we noted in our 13 December post, “The Chicago 800, a Deadly Race,” murders in Chicago continue to climb. We highlighted that the city would likely reach 800 murders this year. Baby-boomers, and many Gen-Xers, remember family car trips as children. At some point mom or dad would inevitably be asked: “Are we there yet.” Is Chicago “there yet?” Well, it depends on how you count. Yesterday, 16 December 2021, the Chicago Sun-Times declared, the city had experienced its 800th murder. The official Chicago Police Department (CPD) count says “no.” The official count as of midnight was 778. That number is bad enough. 778 is also more murders than the city’s full-year 2020 updated count of 772. Secure 1776 provides some clarity on the murder counts.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Secure 1776: The Chicago 800 – A Deadly Race

Before We Go Any Further – Lawlessness and Violence

As we seek to provide our readers some clarity on the confusing statistics surrounding murder, we first seek to clarify a larger point. Secure 1776 shares the broadly-held concern that Chicago has become an increasingly lawless and violent city. In fact, we have drawn the connection between Chicago and the fictional town of Hadleyville. There, as is increasingly the case in Chicago, gunmen are far too comfortable roaming the streets.

The deadly impact of 2020, the year like no other, has not abated. Clearly, whenever a city has more murders than there are days in a year, there is a violence problem. Sadly, media attention likes to focus on milestone (and in this case tombstone) numbers. While, 778 murders is horrible enough, 800 murders will make more international headlines befitting a Hadleyville. Clearly, we are already in “Spectacle Chicago” territory.

Homicides and the Official Chicago Murder Count

All murders are homicides, but not all homicides are murders. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is tasked with compiling national crime data under the Uniform Crime Reporting program.

The FBI defines a homicide as: “The killing of one human being by another.” The “homicide” definition does not distinguish whether or not the responsible person intended to kill.

When we speak about “murder,” we speak about intentionality. The dictionary definition of “murder” highlights this distinction.

  • Dictionary.com:murder” – (1) Law. the killing of another human being under conditions specifically covered in law. In the U.S., special statutory definitions include murder committed with malice aforethought, characterized by deliberation or premeditation or occurring during the commission of another serious crime, as robbery or arson (first-degree murder, or murder one ), and murder by intent but without deliberation or premeditation (second-degree murder, or murder two ).

As such, “homicide” is a broader category of deaths that includes murder.

Involuntary and Reckless Homicide:

Some deaths result from the unintentional actions of others. For example, the fatal accident caused by the intoxication of a “drunk driver.” While the driver likely intentionally drank, became intoxicated, and is responsible for their conduct, it is unlikely they intended to cause any person any physical harm. In Illinois, such a homicidal death falls under the state’s “Involuntary Manslaughter and Reckless Homicide” statute (720 ILCS 5/9-3). CPD does not count such acts under its murder count. Most people would agree that these offenses are different, and the offenders pose a different risk to the community and others.

Justifiable Homicide:

As noted above, “murder” speaks to intentionality, and the absence of lawful justification. Consistent with the FBI’s standards, CPD does not include in the city’s official murder count any deaths that are determined to be justifiable homicides. These deaths result from the lawful actions of another person. Justifiable homicides include self-defense acts and the lawful use of deadly force by law enforcement. They are not criminal acts, and they are not considered to be murders. The full definition from the FBI is provided below.

  • FBI: Justifiable Homicide (Not a Crime)The killing of a perpetrator of a serious criminal offense by a peace officer in the line of duty, or the killing, during the commission of a serious criminal offense, of the perpetrator by a private individual

A Jurisdiction Complication

Since December 1985, the Illinois State Police (ISP) have been responsible to provide primary patrol and investigate crimes on Chicago’s interstate expressways. As CPD does not investigate these crimes, they do not prepare case reports on any murders on the expressways. No report, no crime stat. The statistics for crimes on the expressway are the responsibility of ISP.

It should be noted, violence on the city’s expressways has spiked sharply. On 18 November, WGN News reported that, as of then, 213 shootings had occurred on Chicago’s expressways. That number was reportedly “more than double the 101 expressway shootings that the state police investigated during the same period in 2020.”

Secure 1776 has reviewed Cook County Medical Examiner data for 2021. In that review, as of 16 December, seventeen 2021 murders had “location of incident” addresses on a Chicago expressway.

Chicago’s Official 2021 Murder Count thru 16 December

As indicated above, through 16 December, the official Chicago murder count stood at 778. The official count does not include any justifiable or reckless homicides. Additionally, the expressway murders are not included in the official city count. If 17 expressway murders are added to the official count, the city would be at 795 murders year to date.

The count also does not include people who were shot or otherwise injured in 2020 (or a prior year) and died in 2021 from complications of that prior year injury. Such explains why the official 2020 count rose from 769, since it was first published on 1 January 2021. Three such victims died in 2021, and the full-year 2020 Chicago murder count now stands at 771 (for last year).

Quick Summary on the Counts from Two Others

William Shakespeare noted long ago that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” However, a murder count by sources other than the “official counter,” may be off some. Here we provide a quick summary of what two others are counting.

Cook County Medical Examiner:

On a key level, the Cook County Medical Examiner is the definitive source on who died. The medical examiner is also the source for “manner of death.” But, while the medical examiner indicates whether a death was natural, accidental, or a homicide – the office does not investigate intentionality. As such, the data from the medical examiner leaves open the “homicide, but not a murder” complication. As of this posting, the Cook County Medical Examiner was listing 812 homicidal deaths in Chicago during 2021, including the three 2020 incidents noted above. Less those three, their count would be 809 Chicago homicides thus far this year. This count includes reckless and justifiable homicides, but does not include any deaths that were still pending a formal manner of death determination as of this posting.

The click-bait, name-catching site HeyJackass.com has had the Chicago 2021 homicide count over 800 for about two weeks. Their count as of this posting is 825. We are confident that Secure 1776 readers caught the word “homicide” in the prior sentence. Yes, that site counts every death resulting from the actions of another person, whether the act was lawful or unlawful, and whether the act was intentional or not. On this point we here at Secure 1776 disagree, particularly with respect to the inclusion of justifiable homicides. Counting justifiable homicides in the larger count equates them with criminal murders. This is incorrect. However, HeyJackass also includes those homicides that occurred on a Chicago expressway and were investigated by the ISP. On this point, we see their point. Those are criminal acts within the city.

The Deadly Race and Losing

In our last post we asked: “What will Chicago’s headlines read on 1 January 2022?” It’s not likely they will be good. There is only one way that the headlines could proclaim a “win” for the city over these next 14 days. A murder-free rest of December. That would be an incredible gift worthy of Christmas.

What is it that Chicago does not need, and what do we at Secure 1776 not want to see or hear? Any claim of a “victory lap” by this city’s elected officials. Chicago clearly has a violence problem.

Almighty Lord – Chicago is in need of a miracle.


We are interested in your thoughts, and invite you to comment below.

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