ROCKFORD — New crime statistics released by the city confirm that Rockford is experiencing a surge in gun violence as rival street gangs clash.
Chief Dan O'Shea said that many of the strategies involving relationship-building that had appeared to help drive down the violent crime for three years have not been possible during the coronavirus pandemic. O'Shea said police continue to need the public's help to arrest those who are responsible for the violence.
"Our violent crime is off the charts this year," O'Shea said. "As it is in pretty much every other major city across the country. I talk to lots of police agencies and everybody is experiencing a huge increases in gun and violent crime this year."
Rockford police have responded to 32 homicides this year, the most killings of any year on records dating back to 1965 and eclipsing the 31 killings recorded in 1996.
There were 2,053 violent crimes year-to-date through November, 21% more than in the same time period last year. And through November there have been 614 incidents involving illegal shots fired, 49% more than the 411 in 2019, according to information released by the city.
Youth are out of school with less supervision and unemployment is on the rise. But Alderman Bill Rose, D-9, said that elected officials have been told by police that most of the violence is related to a gang war.
"There is a gang problem causing a good portion of the shootings," Rose said. "And with COVID, it has created a perfect storm. If our young people are not in school as much and they have more free time, they are doing other stuff."
Jeff Kolkey: email@example.com; @jeffkolkey