Chicago's homicide rate jumped to a 15-year high in January after authorities recorded 51 murders in the first month of the year.
The homicide increase was a sharp rise from the 29 murders reported in January 2015, and 20 in 2013, according to USA Today
. Overall, there were 241 shooting incidents in January, an increase from 119 such incidents last year.
The "unacceptable increase in violence was driven primarily by gang conflicts and retaliatory violence," said Chicago's interim police superintendent, John Escalante, according to the Chicago Sun-Times
"The vast majority of incidents originated from petty disagreements that escalated into gun violence that tore apart families. Chicagoans should know that detectives are making progress in January's investigations and have already solved 14 murder cases this month," said Escalante.
The Sun-Times noted that Chicago police officers have made significantly fewer stops in January, likely because of an agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois requiring new documentation about encounters.
Chicago officers have to fill out a two-page form after every stop, covering everything from traffic violations to investigations. Some officers told the Sun-Times they have avoided making stops they would have made in the past.
The result, dubbed by the Sun-Times as the "ACLU Effect," is 79 percent fewer contact cards being filled out in January of this year than over the same time in 2015.
"We're avoiding all the gray areas," one sergeant told the Sun-Times, noting that the team he commands only made a handful of stops in January compared to dozens it made just the month before.
USA Today said some Chicago officers disputed claims that the homicide increase could be linked to less aggressive police work following the negative attention from the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.
Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder last year after authorities released a 2014 video that showed him shooting 17-year-old McDonald 16 times when the teenager appeared to be walking away from him, summarized the Chicago Tribune
. Van Dyke had said he feared for his life and McDonald was holding a knife with a three-inch blade.
The incident sparked protests from the African-American community and led to resignation of the Chicago police superintendent and calls for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign.
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