616 homicides, and counting: Chicago police try to curb violence

Chicago police at a shooting scene where five people were reported to have been shot, including an 11-month-old , in September  2015.

Story highlights

  • 616 people have been reported killed so far this year
  • This past weekend was particularly bloody

(CNN)Chicago started the year in a bloodbath, a harbinger of the homicide count 2016 would beget.

This past weekend was its bloodiest.
    The city is like a war zone.
    Through Tuesday, 616 people have been fatally shot, police said.
    Mothers are mourning their children.
    And police are trying to stem the violence with a two-year plan and by putting more officers on the streets.

    A grim by the numbers

    There were 45 shootings this past weekend, resulting in 18 deaths.
    October closed with 78 killings, 353 shootings and 427 shooting victims, authorities said.
    Earlier this year, Chicago saw its deadliest month for gun violence in 20 years: Ninety people were killed in the city in August.
    By September, the city had more homicides than in all of 2015.

    Tackling the violence

    In August, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a law to address Chicago's violence.
    The measure imposed a stiff penalty on those lacking gun-owner identification cards who brought guns to the state with the intent to sell them.
    The crime was marked a felony.
    It renders a prison sentence of four to 20 years, or up to 30 years for repeat offenders, according to one of the bill sponsors.
    Before the law was passed, gun owners caught for the first time without the proper ID were charged with a misdemeanor and got less than a year behind bars.
    Repeat offenders would get up to five years.
    Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson had previously said the focus to tackle the homicide count was on stopping these repeat offenders.
    "We have too many guns in the streets of Chicago and too many people willing to use them," he said in July.
    The guns in about 60% of crimes related to gun violence in Chicago were bought out of state, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said at the time.

    A two-year plan

    As part of its plan to deal with the rising homicide count, the Chicago police will amp up its force.
    Johnson told CNN affiliate WBBM that a new graduating class of more than 200 police officers will soon join the ranks.
    The city already has roughly 12,500 police officers patrolling the streets.
    In a statement, police said they plan to hire an additional "970 new police officers over the next two years."
    The police department said it will use crime data in the neighborhoods heavily affected to prevent violence, deploying officers on foot and bike patrols.
    It will partner with local colleges to train officers to fill its ranks.
    Chicago's top cop will call in in help from national and local experts in an effort to promote community policing.
    "We will not allow the level of violence we've seen in some parts of the city to continue and I have laid out a comprehensive plan to build stronger community partnerships, which is crucial to making our streets safer," Johnson said in a statement Tuesday.