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Chicago's Murder Problem
August 21, 2012 10:52 PM   Subscribe

With six homicides, Saturday August 18th tied with an unseasonably warm February day for the dubious honor of Chicago's deadliest day, bringing the year's death total to over 340. Chicago is now one of the world's deadliest cities, much worse than the more populous NYC, even earning comparisons to Kabul. Possible culprits include failed urban policies, guns, concentrated poverty, and gangs (and counterintuitively, the fact that some are fractured and poorly run).
posted by melissam (39 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Among what are considered Alpha world cities, Chicago has the highest murder rate

I don't know what would be the more typical New Orleans reaction to this news: relief at being left off the list, or defensive anger that no one thinks it's any kind of "world city" (much less an "Alpha"). But for the record New Orleans is still winning the murder-rate competition among U.S. cities, and it's not even close. There have been 124 murders in N.O. so far this year against Chicago's 228, though New Orleans has a population (360K) about one-ninth the size of Chicago's (2.7M).

What do these cities have in common? As one of the links says: "The number-one factor in predicting crime is not guns [...] It is concentrated urban poverty." We might want to add their long history of corrupt, violent, and racist policing into the mix, too.
posted by RogerB at 11:23 PM on August 21, 2012 [11 favorites]


I got this by email the other day from some Catholic priests my wife has worked with on the South Side. It's not online yet, or I'd link to it directly. My heart is aching over it still. Things have gotten really bad in Chicago and it's astonishing how little people seem to care. Last year we were back for six months, living down in Woodlawn within sight of the University of Chicago Law School. Twice in a month we had gunfire outside our apartment. So close you could hear the kids scramble and smell the gunpowder in the air when you walked outside a half-hour later. Both times I called the cops, hands trembling and heart pounding. Both times I stopped looking out the window after an hour, realizing that no squad car was coming. I parked a moving truck for an hour in front of my apartment building without a neighborhood sticker and got a ticket. But the cops couldn't be bothered to respond to actual gunfire in the street.

I will never forget the sensation of holding my infant daughter in my arms and hearing the shots below. I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to be around that casual violence all the time. How that must warp your spirit. What is being done to the people in those neighborhoods, the systematic neglect and adversarial policing, the denial of opportunity and wholesale abandonment of another generation of children are a crime against humanity. Plain and simple.

---

HELPLESS
By Mike Donovan

“Some of us have a new habit each weekend morning—and increasingly during the week—we turn to the Internet or our daily newspapers to check the violence quotient of the night before, a typical weekend now running about 4 dead, another 35 to 50 shot.” (“The Impact of Violence”, Marilyn Katz, Chicago Tribune, June 27, 2012)

It’s been a very violent spring and summer in Chicago. We’ve become numb to the reports of violence in our South side neighborhood. The youth at our Center are frightened. All know at least someone who has been murdered or injured this summer --- friends, neighbors, or relatives. Many of the shootings have been within close proximity of our Center. Most of the gun violence has been gang related, so many of the victims have been young.

Last week, Charlie arrived at my Center office cubicle, frantic and drenched in sweat. He told me his story of helplessness, being shot at many times in the last week, sure in the knowledge that he was targeted by a rival gang. I took him into a private office where Charlie cried, not knowing where to go or what to do. I felt helpless too, because I had no good answers which would ensure Charlie’s safety.

Charlie has never had a chance in life. He never knew his Dad, and has gone through life with an alcoholic Mother, always living in deplorable conditions. Presently, they live in a garage apartment, where’s there’s no room for Charlie. He never graduated from the 8th grade, and has been on the streets for as long as I can remember. Now he’s following his Mother’s example by drinking away his pain. Moreover, Charlie and his little brother may be the only white boys in the Back-of-the-Yards neighborhood, and he has tried to fit in by being part of a gang.

I’ve known him since he was eleven years old, a client of Catholic Charities Street Intervention Program. When Catholic Charities left the neighborhood, Charlie gravitated to the Precious Blood Center. Through the years, I’ve visited Charlie when he was locked up at the Detention Center. At least he was safe there, 3 hots and a cot, as they say. I’ve had no success finding him a job. He works sporadically at a tire repair shop, where he gets paid at far below minimum wage. I help him out by having him wash my car, or by doing odd jobs for me every Wednesday. But I’m helpless in keeping him safe, especially this summer.

Since I’d never seen Charlie so fearful, I gave him bus fare to his sister’s apartment, but she won’t let him stay there more than one night, since he is a magnet for danger. While he was still a juvenile, he had opportunities for residential placement, but he didn’t want to be away from his family, or accept the structure of a group home after answering to no one for most of his life. He is one of society’s throw aways, at age 19.

I went home that night and packed for a 4 day trip to prisons located in Southern Illinois, knowing I had not solved Charlie’s problems. Two days into my trip, I received a call from Diana Rubio of our staff with the news that Charlie had been arrested. No details, just that he was locked up. My initial thought was a sad commentary on the state of affairs in our neighborhood –“at least he’s safe I thought”—at least for now.

Please pray for the youth we serve at the Precious Blood Center.
posted by R. Schlock at 11:29 PM on August 21, 2012 [29 favorites]


Rebuttal from Chicago Magazine
posted by ShutterBun at 11:30 PM on August 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


Chicago just needs to hire teams of ninjas to sweep the city clean of guns.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:48 PM on August 21, 2012


Possible culprits include...gangs (and counterintuitively, the fact that some are fractured and poorly run).

As Vetinari might say, if we're going to have crime in Chicago it should at least be organized.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:05 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I suppose it all boils down to urban politics in Chicago. The concentrated poverty is something I'm especially ashamed of as a Chicagoan. Great post and I think the Chicago Magazine article is really insightful as well.
posted by MyMind at 12:07 AM on August 22, 2012


You're looking at it all wrong, it's not a murder problem, it's a murder opportunity.
posted by The Monkey at 12:08 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Top 100 Most Dangerous Cities in the U.S.
posted by stbalbach at 12:14 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Chicago has had a fairly high homicide rate for some time, though it has dropped dramatically from its highs in the 1990s. Most of the homicides happen within gang turf, and very few happen within the downtown area or along the densely-populated lakefront.

New Orleans, St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, and Newark are a factor of 2-3 worse than Chicago, but they're on a very different scale in terms of size, economic activity, etc. Fairer comparisons would be LA (significantly lower homicide rate in 2010), Philly (slightly higher), and Houston (slightly lower). So exactly how bad Chicago's homicide rate is depends on how you do the comparison.

But it's certainly worse than New York and LA, which is the league in which Chicago sees itself. Why? Beats me. LA and NY (like the miraculous El Paso) probably benefit from their large immigrant population; Chicago's immigrant population has grown since the 1990s (when, again, the murder rate was far worse) but is still smaller. Chicago is also more segregated than NY and LA. Its police department has had its share of issues, but of course the same could be said of NY and LA. None of these seem like complete answers.

As to why this year has been especially bad, I'm going to go with a combination of unusually high temperatures, statistical fluctuations, and the ongoing disappearance of population, jobs, and capital in parts of the south and west sides. The last one being the most worrisome, obviously. The most violent areas are hyper-segregated severely-impoverished neighborhoods trapped in a kind of death spiral of population loss and disinvestment (Englewood, for example)--essentially like Detroit, but with the rich neighbors within city limits instead of just outside them. It isn't clear whether the city has a plan to reverse their course, unless you count "wait until the west side empties out and then start over" as a plan.
posted by hal incandenza at 12:52 AM on August 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Obama's from Chicago, right? Wait here...I'll phone a tip in to Fox News...
posted by Thorzdad at 3:27 AM on August 22, 2012


...if we're going to have crime in Chicago it should at least be organized...

Indeed.
posted by Vetinari at 3:27 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


hal incandenza: "(Englewood, for example)"
I was curious what Englewood looks like, so I tried to take a virtual drive through the 'hood with Google. It appears that in the blocks delineated by Marquette, Racine, 63rd and Halsted, someone has pulled a sock over the camera.
posted by brokkr at 3:51 AM on August 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


It isn't clear whether the city has a plan to reverse their course, unless you count "wait until the west side empties out and then start over" as a plan.

Part of me thinks that may well be the plan. I mean, you've got to do something once you run out of warehouses to convert in the West Loop, right? It'd be handy if there were an empty neighbourhood just sitting there...
posted by hoyland at 5:13 AM on August 22, 2012


Part of me thinks that may well be the plan.

This impression/belief is often referred to as The Plan by those living in such neighborhoods:

"'Plan' may be a sloppy choice of words. In many urban areas threatened by gentrification, people speak of “The Plan”—a sinister plot by the powers-that-be to uproot and then colonize the inner city. "
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:20 AM on August 22, 2012


Chicago is also more segregated than NY and LA.

LA is still pretty segregated, it's just less obvious due to the patchwork nature of the various separately incorporated cities, the car-centric lifestyle, and lower density overall.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:23 AM on August 22, 2012


with the rich neighbors within city limits instead of just outside them

That's an important point to keep in mind. Taking the Neighborhood Scout list St Balbach just posted as an example--see how Chester PA and Camden NJ are counted separately from Philadelphia? Memphis versus West Memphis? When you talk about 'cities' in the U.S., you have to be careful to make apples-to-apples comparisons.
posted by gimonca at 5:27 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


gangs (and counterintuitively, the fact that some are fractured and poorly run).

Poorly run fractured gangs drive the murder rate up. Organized gangs murder less because they aren't fighting for turf.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:48 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Organized crime:savior of lives
posted by ShutterBun at 5:53 AM on August 22, 2012


I live on the North Side, in Lakeview. The South Side is very much another world, a place I certainly never visit: I have no reason, and it's really far away. I will go out on a limb and say that's how it is for everyone else who lives north of the Loop.

Crime reports in this area -- particularly break-ins/burglaries -- have been inching up, but will probably go back down once it gets cold again. But, in terms of anything serious being done about the violence, until shootings start happening in, say, Old Town or Lincoln Park, nothing's going to change.
posted by gsh at 6:03 AM on August 22, 2012


I live in Chicago and on the South Side (burbs) but grew up in scenic Marquette Park. I had to take my dad to the ER for a fall (cracked ribs) at 2am on the 18th. That ER would be Christ Hospital (trauma center). As I was waiting in the triage with my dad cops and the ER team told me to move it. A gsw was coming in. 23 years old shot in the neck, back, side, leg, arm. In fact powder burns on his neck meaning close range. They wheeled him in and he's talking and trying to get up. And quite honestly, I began to cry. This is a common occurrence where my dad lives. It was at 69th and Bishop which is about 1/2 mile from where my dad lives. So not only do I have to worry about my dad getting killed or his house broken into (my mom just passed away so he's alone and the neighborhood knows it) but the safe neighborhood where I grew up is no more. It's beyond depressing to see everything I knew go to shit. Because if it didn't go to shit, while the houses are small, it's a really decent "city" place to live.

So is Chicago the deadliest? No, the south/west side are the deadliest.

And like GSH said, unless Old Town gets shot up, nothing will change. And once my dad dies, guess where I want to move?

Yep, far North burbs. The South burbs are getting encroached by the south city and I have a 3.5 year old. I'm not staying here to prove a point like my parents did.
posted by stormpooper at 6:44 AM on August 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


"That's an important point to keep in mind. Taking the Neighborhood Scout list St Balbach just posted as an example--see how Chester PA and Camden NJ are counted separately from Philadelphia? Memphis versus West Memphis? When you talk about 'cities' in the U.S., you have to be careful to make apples-to-apples comparisons."

Which also explains El Paso. The city is, and always has been, largely an appendage to Ciudad Juarez. Violence is kept on the Juarez side because the American side is too valuable to mess up. From Juarez, EP is a combination of "the rich neighborhood" and the golden pathway to riches, the American heartland. You can't understand EP at all except as the "twin city" of Juarez.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 6:58 AM on August 22, 2012


Where's Quaxelrod when you need him and what the f@# is Mayor Rahm Motherf@#ing Emmanuel doing about this?
posted by incandissonance at 7:00 AM on August 22, 2012


For the Mayor, or even the commander, what do you honestly expect them to do? This problem is way bigger than any one person or even a district can handle.
posted by stormpooper at 7:27 AM on August 22, 2012


It appears that in the blocks delineated by Marquette, Racine, 63rd and Halsted, someone has pulled a sock over the camera.

Wow, and those are the mapped parts. It's interesting to consider that approach in light of requests google has had (and denied) to censor certain parts of their maps.

I recently saw a showing of The Interrupters here in Milwaukee that was put on by some people who work for the city. Two of them were planning to come up and talk with the audience after the film, but one of them had to stay in Chicago because his cousin was shot the previous weekend. It's about a group of people, many of whom are former gang members, who work in the neighborhoods to try to keep people from shooting each other - they don't work with the police, they don't "fight crime", they just try to mediate with people and convince them not to solve their issues with gun violence. It was really moving and hopeful a lot of ways, but it also shows the difficulties of living with the way things are. PBS seems to have it available for viewing right now. Highly recommended.

I asked what people could do, in general, to help with things, and Cobe said that being a mentor was probably the biggest thing he could recommend, as so many of the kids are lacking recognition and love, as well as interaction with people who live in a different way.
posted by nTeleKy at 7:44 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Here is the map I use. I was riding my bike to work for a while and wanted to get back to it, but the murder map gives me pause. I have to ride through Austin and Garfield Park and although my morning and late afternoon trips have me riding by lots of kids and families going about their daily business, the fact that there was a body in the street along my route early one morning makes me opt out.

I would say it is not at the top of politicians to do lists because it is young black men killing young black men. Many already have felonies, they are unemployable and uneducated. There are no easy answers. They need to be ready to change and it's like waiting for an alcoholic to reach rock bottom and start to rebuild, but these kids are dead or in jail before that happens. Incarceration is nothing but punishment, there's no rehabilitation available, so getting out of jail just means the same as before with even less opportunities.

Anecdotally I would say the problem starts with babies being raised by capricious teenagers. I think before welfare reform you could count on grandparents being more available to help raise the next generation, but now the grandparents are busy working two jobs to keep a roof over their heads. Small children raised in a stress filled environment are always at risk.
posted by readery at 8:03 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


If Flint, Mi. had chicagos population... never mind...

"Chicago’s Shootings Didn’t Happen In a Movie Theater, But It’s Still the World’s Deadliest City"

Is it the worlds deadliest city?...sounds like Rahm and Co. need some federal police money.

Poorly run fractured gangs drive the murder rate up. Organized gangs murder less because they aren't fighting for turf.
posted by Ironmouth

more like mushmouth dude, were do you pull this shit out from. Back up your statement with at least some supporting evidence...hell use 'The Wire" as an example.
posted by clavdivs at 8:05 AM on August 22, 2012


Chicago is also more segregated than NY and LA.

LA is still pretty segregated, it's just less obvious due to the patchwork nature of the various separately incorporated cities, the car-centric lifestyle, and lower density overall.


It depends on how you define segregation- is it the size of the area, or the rigidness of the borders?

If you look at the maps, Chicago and NY don't seem any different in their levels of segregation to me. The borders between Harlem and the rest of Manhattan, and Brooklyn and Queens, are pretty striking.
posted by gjc at 8:06 AM on August 22, 2012


readery: "it is young black men killing young black men."
Plus the collateral damage.
posted by brokkr at 8:30 AM on August 22, 2012


My impression is that it is caused by two things:

1) Poor education. The dropout rate is terrible, the scores are terrible, the quality of education is terrible. Not just the numbers, but just the general subjective intelligence of the students. These institutionally-created morons are then kicked out into the world where there are not enough jobs, and even fewer jobs for which they are qualified. The teachers are currently in contract talks with the city. Listen to some of them speak. These are the people "teaching" our children.

2) A police department that has all but given up on traditional policing methods. There is nobody out walking beats or talking to people. When you DO see police officers in the city, they are locked up tight in their cruisers with the windows up, invariably talking on their cell phones and breaking traffic laws for no reason but that they can. The police department (and most other city employees), almost to a person, has zero respect for the citizens they work for. Either we are dirtbags trying to kill them, or we are pasty lambs, too doughy to survive without their protection. You don't grow up respecting the law when the law doesn't seem to respect you.

And then we have city leaders who weep and rend their garments every time someone is killed, and blame it on "the guns". Bullshit. You can put all the guns in the world in front of most of us and we won't kill anyone. These murders are happening because we have a generation of kids who weren't taught well enough about right and wrong and actions and consequences.
posted by gjc at 8:38 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, the collateral damage gets the headlines. I have a teenage son who I worry about. As a white kid he's been robbed and beaten up a couple of times, but I realized one night recently when there was a street closed investigating a shooting in a neighborhood he might be passing through that I was doing a mental calculation on the odds that he was OK - 1. he will not be shot at directly as he is unimportant in thug life 2. what are the odds he's in the line of fire?. He developed a fair bit of street smarts and has learned to avoid, I think.
posted by readery at 8:41 AM on August 22, 2012


Collateral damage only gets press when it's glaringly obvious that they couldn't possibly be a gang member. Make that 7 year-old girl an innocent 14 year-old boy and suddenly he becomes a suspected gang member.

Has this been making the national news at all? I've been hearing reports about it out of Chicago, but the number of deaths has been huge.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:23 AM on August 22, 2012


>A police department that has all but given up on traditional policing methods.

I'm not going to say where in the city I live because it could identify my alderman and I don't want to identify myself or family (see below). The few times I've had to call the police they were here within minutes. Sorry, but the police can't fix every broken social problem nor can they raise your kids or make sure dad raises his kids. CPD may not be the greatest, but they're not terrible nor have they given up on the city. I'm actually surprised at how well the CPD works. All my run ins with them have been generally positive.

On the negative side, I couldn't get the city to put a lock on daily opened hydrant to save my life. I had to ask a relative who knew someone who knew the alderman to do this. It got done in three days by the favor system, but was open MONTHS before with tons of people calling 311 and the water department begging them to lock the hydrant like the other ones in the neighborhood. Open hydrants and broken infrastructure contribute to the "broken window" theory and keeps shitty neighborhoods shitty.

Meanwhile my condo is being peppered with some technical issue that keeps us from getting a certificate of occupancy, which involves a massive bureaucracy and borderline madness, but all the buildings surrounding ours are fucking flophouses with broken windows, broken fences, garbage poured into the alley outside of canisters, and real problems that hurt real people, children, and animals.

If you want a bogeyman, its not the cops, its the corrupt alderman/government and kids being raised without values, without dads, and without income. I'm sure the overbearing Catholic politics in Latino neighborhoods isn't helping any with safe sex and condom/pill usage stats.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:54 PM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you want to know what that neighborhood is like visit this site.
http://chicago.everyblock.com/locations/zipcodes/60636/?only=crime

and here is where I go every weekend to visit my dad: http://chicago.everyblock.com/locations/zipcodes/60629/?only=crime
posted by stormpooper at 2:42 PM on August 22, 2012


Oh and the hospital I was talking about, Christ, gets about 1,200 gunshot wound victims a year.
posted by stormpooper at 2:43 PM on August 22, 2012


Obama's from Chicago, right? Wait here...I'll phone a tip in to Fox News...

Romney to Obama: ‘Take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago’
posted by homunculus at 5:48 PM on August 22, 2012


Damn dirty ape...do you dispute that the police don't show up for other areas of the city? I've heard many tales of 911 being called with no one arriving and I have no reason to doubt it. Such a hopeless feeling that must be.
posted by agregoli at 7:04 AM on August 23, 2012


"Take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago..."

As I'm not the dog this whistle summons, I can only imagine what a Romney constituent envisions when they hear "Chicago-style election," or "Chicago-style politics." An Oirish wardheeler in a derby droving immigrants to the booths with a blackthorn club? A Pole at the polls pushing vote after vote into the ballot box with one hand and polishing off a Polish with the other? Fedora-ed Italians in excellent pinstripes in a smoky boardroom, all nodding in perfect accord? Politically active black people?

The corruption is much less colorful these days, has become as quiet and respectable and absolutely immovable as the pillars on City Hall. Elections are not marked by division or anger but by resignation and anomie; aldermen come and go, but none can gainsay the Mayor, who does not come or go but simply is. He has been now for nearly a quarter century of gradually consolidated power. That he has been two men in that time scarcely matters; that he loves his city, which he does, does not signify; his tantrums and expectorations can hardly distract from the three constants of the Mayor's administration: that he does too much for the powerful - that he does not enough for the powerless - that democracy has no sway over him.

When Romney calls for an end to Chicago-style politics, his literal request is for absolute lucidity in governance; for the inclusion and consideration of citizens at every level of administration; for an end to the systematic imprisonment of young African-Americans and Latinos; for a reformation of public schools and higher education not compromised by monied interests, haste, or malice; for investment in infrastructure, technology, and culture in every part of the country, and not simply in its already wealthy showplaces; and for the safekeeping of public resources from the avarice of the powerful. I think it's somewhat more likely, though, that he's calling for an end to the political activity of black people.
posted by Iridic at 10:17 AM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Rahm's response of, well, kindly put, triage, reminds me of the Ashbury book Gem of the Prairie, about Chicago's crime history (the first person that settled in Chicago was a crook!) and how the theory of the gilded age was "segregated vice," where the idea was that keeping all of the criminals together would decrease crime overall, at least for bourgeoisie white folks. It was a spectacular failure and gave rise to many of the systemic problems that still plague Chicago. Per capita, the murder rate was far worse than it is today.

It's a great book, I highly recommend it.
posted by klangklangston at 3:53 PM on August 23, 2012


13 shot in 30 minutes Thursday night/Friday morning.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:57 AM on August 24, 2012


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