The murder rate in Chicago is up 84 percent this year

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Chicago Homicide Rate More Than Double Since Last February

While the Chicago Police Department is under federal investigation following the shooting of Laquan McDonald, and owing to its police practices all around, homicides and shootings have spiked in the first three months of 2016. The 131 homicides so far represent an 84 percent increase over that period last year, and the 605 shootings in that stretch are almost double last year's total.

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Some experts blame the mild winter; others say that social media has sped up the pace of gang retaliations. Still, others note that after the criticism following the McDonald case, the Chicago police have avoided confronting citizens whenever possible. Although analysts generally reject that as a cause for the rising number of shootings, the statistic in the Times is striking:

Since January, officers have recorded 20,908 instances in which they stopped, patted down and questioned people for suspicious behavior, compared with 157,346 in the same period last year. Gun seizures are also down: 1,316 guns have been taken off the streets this year compared with 1,413 at this time last year.

Despite the increase, the numbers are far below the figures from the early 1990s, during the crack epidemic, when the homicide count hovered around 900. New York, a city with almost three times the population of Chicago, has only seen 60 homicides this year so far, a 20 percent drop from last year. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel this week named a new interim police chief, Eddie Johnson, a 27-year veteran of the department.

RELATED: Protests following the shooting death of Laquan McDonald:

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Protests in Chicago following Laquan McDonald shooting by police conviction
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The murder rate in Chicago is up 84 percent this year
Protesters form a line and walk holding signs that spell out 'Laquan' following the release of a dash-cam video of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being fatally shot 16 times by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, on Tuesday, Nov. 24 2015, in Chicago. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Protesters take to the streets in Chicago following the release of a dash-cam video of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being fatally shot 16 times by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, on Tuesday, Nov. 24 2015. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Demonstrators confront police during a protest following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Police stand guard as demonstrators march through downtown during a protest following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Demonstrators march through downtown following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Bus passengers watch as demonstrators march through downtown following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Demonstrators march through downtown following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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