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Chicago registers its 500th homicide of 2012 – the highest number since 2008

Public-housing and school policies, gang activity, access to guns, and budget cuts for social programs have all been cited as factors in Chicago’s homicide rate.

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Young men walk past the barred window of a business in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. The violence in 2012 – 500 homicides in the city so far – has gripped a handful of neighborhoods, including this one.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

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Rahm Emanuel’s first full year as Chicago mayor ends on a tragic note: The city marked its 500th homicide Thursday evening, making 2012 the deadliest year in the city since 2008.

Overall, Chicago homicides are at a historic low compared to decades past – 928 in 1991, for example. But the last time Chicago homicides topped 500 was in 2008, when the number was 513. After that, murders had been falling. In 2011, there were 433 homicides.

Why homicide rates trend up or down is not easily explained by a single year, and it most certainly requires examining a series of complex factors including systemic unemployment, economic disenfranchisement, easy access to weapons, and – specifically in Chicago – the dismantling of public housing that started two decades ago and has coincided with the closings of public schools in distressed neighborhoods.

 
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