The midwestern U.S. city of Chicago, Illinois is reeling from a deadly Labor Day holiday weekend in which 13 people were shot to death, pushing the homicide rate this year to levels not seen in two decades.
The Chicago Police Department told VOA 488 people have been killed this year, mostly by gunfire, a homicide count the nation's third largest city has not experienced since the 1990's, when homicides peaked at more than 900 a year.
The Chicago Tribune reports there were 512 homicides this year, higher than police department numbers, which do not include killings on area expressways and homicides that were determined to be justifiable.
The city's homicide total last year was 481.
The Labor Day weekend killings follow 90 homicides in August, the most in Chicago since June 1993. If the killings go unabated, homicides there could top 600 for the first time since 2003.
Homicides in Chicago this year exceed combined totals in New York and Los Angeles, the two largest cities in the United States.
Chicago police blame the surge in killings on repeat offenders and the widespread availability of illegal guns.
"The historical cycle of violence we have seen in some communities must come to an end," Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a statement last month. "Repeat gun offenders who drive the violence on our streets should not be there in the first place, and it is time to change the laws to ensure these violent offenders are held accountable for their crimes."
Police say most of the killings have occurred in Chicago's southern and western neighborhoods, where 75 community organizations hosted block parties, concerts and other pop-up events over the holiday weekend in an attempt to reduce the violence.
Although crime rates in Chicago and the rest of the U.S. remain well below those between 1990 and 1995, homicides began to surge in numerous large cities last year.