What would it be like to live in an American city where shootings and gun violence are so frequent they have become routine? You can get your answer, apparently, by asking someone who lives in Chicago.
The statistics about shootings in the Chicago area are breathtaking and frightening. The Chicago Tribune reports that, in 2013, there were 2,185 shooting victims in Chicago, and 595 shooting victims so far in 2014. Over this past weekend, 4 people were killed and another 24 were injured in Chicago-area shootings. Just between last night and this morning, another eight people were shot in Chicago and one of them was killed.
There is a terrible randomness about the incidents, and drive-by shootings are commonplace. People are outside in the early morning hours, a car drives by, the driver flashes gang symbols, and the shooting starts. Two men get into a fight on a public street and one is shot multiple times. A man is sitting in his car, is robbed at gunpoint, and is shot in the head.
The stories about the shootings linked above indicate that many of the shootings are gang-related, and the Tribune piece, which identifies where the shootings occurred, depicts a clear geographic pattern. I’m sure many Chicagoans rationalize the amount of violence by saying that the gunplay is a South Side or West Side gang problem that can be avoided simply by avoiding the dangerous neighborhoods. But when gang members and criminals are so emboldened that they shoot dozens of people on public streets over a weekend, how can anyone in Chicago truly feel safe, even on downtown streets?
There’s a certain cavalier and wrong-headed dismissiveness in that attitude, too. Not everyone who lives on Chicago’s South Side or West Side is a gang member. People who are trying to work and raise families live there, too. What must it be like to live in a neighborhood where you regularly hear shoots ring out and then reflexively look for your children, hoping they didn’t happen to be outside when the latest drive-by shooting occurred? How can kids possibly grow up in such hyper-violent environments without being forever twisted by the experience?
Are the authorities in Chicago losing control?