Things are pretty grim in Chicago following its deadliest summer in recent memory.By Oct. 21, Chicago had recorded 435 murders, ahead of 339 in New York and 241 in Los Angeles. The Windy City has the highest murder rate of all Alpha world cities, according to NBC Chicago.
And while things are finally starting to slow down, the mood in the city definitely isn’t great.
As an Illinois ex-pat living in New York and looking on at one of my favourite cities from afar, I have to wonder, how did we get here?
From 2002 to 2011, crime in a majority of the city's neighborhoods had been dropping drastically.
In the Hyde Park-South Kenwood community for instance, crime dropped 39 per cent from 2002 to 2011, according to the University of Chicago.
And in 2002, the total number of homicides in Chicago dropped below the total in LA with 20 fewer murders that year than in 2001.
As of 2010, Chicago had more cops per 100,000 residents than any other big city, according to the Chicago Justice Project.
Chicago has 59 gangs divided into 625 factions, boasting up to 125,000 members, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The rise of gangs can be attributed to Chicago's public housing policies, according to a January article in Chicago Magazine:
'New York's most successful public housing developments are economically integrated. Chicago's, in contrast, only house poor and nonworking families. While Chicago's public housing tenants have extraordinarily high rates of welfare recipiency (92 per cent in Robert Taylor receive either public assistance or a benefit such as disability or Social Security), few of New York's tenants are on welfare.'
Chicago has demolished many of its public housing projects in the face of criticism. But a recent study suggested their removal helped make crime even worse in neighborhoods where public-housing residents relocated.
Joseph Briggs, 16, was the youngest to die during the weekend of June 11, 2012.
In what police believe was a gang-related incident, Briggs was shot on his front porch in Marquette Park, an area that saw an influx of shootings this summer, according to NBC News.
But in a reversal from their stance Memorial Day weekend, city officials took a more passive approach to the weekend crime spree, saying there weren't any immediate fixes and crime reduction would have to happen 'over the long-term,' Police Supt. Garry McCarthy told reporters.
Violence continued on the following weekend in June.
Shakaki Asphy, 16, was just sitting on the porch of a vacant home when a shooter in a grey hoodie opened fire, according to ABC Chicago.
Following the latest bloody weekend, Chicago Fraternal Order of Police president Michael Shields called on the city to hire more police: 'Chicago police officers can't be everywhere. Because they're racing from one 911 call to the next, and with manpower as it is right now, it's very difficult to deter crime.'
Things became so dire by the weekend of Aug. 24, the often tough-spoken Emanuel was begging city residents for help.
'I'd like to remind everybody that it also requires a community to step up,' Emanuel said according to NBC News. 'You're not a snitch, you have a role in community policing.'
By Aug. 27, police had arrested at least 300 people, most of whom were gang members, CBS Chicago reported at the time.
'Police records, using preliminary assessments from investigators, show 100 of the 392 homicide victims through late September were connected to the Gangster Disciples.
No other gang was close, with the next highest being the 22 victims linked to the Black P Stones, the police statistics show. Even given the Gangster Disciples' greater size, the disparity is notable,' the Tribune reported in October.
The violence got worse this summer as the gangs split up into rival factions and began fighting each other.
The Gangster Disciples have long controlled the South Side but this summer the gang splintered into smaller factions such as the Killa Ward and The Hit Squad, with both groups fighting to retain the Disciples' territory, The Chicago Tribune reported in October.
'They're splintering off into smaller gang factions, and that's getting more difficult for us to track and predict what's going to happen next,' Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said.
As the gangs grow, the warring factions are spreading across the entire city, including wealthier neighborhoods.
'Wilding,' when teenagers from Chicago's tougher neighborhoods invade the wealthier ones and do everything from rob convenience stores to assault passersby, gave way to bloodier crimes as Chicago's gang culture splintered in on itself, The Daily Beast reported in August.
Just take a look at some of the people killed on the streets of Chicago:
- 7-year-old Heaven Sutton was selling candy in her front yard in June when she got caught in the crossfire between rival gang members, according to The Daily Beast.
- A 20-year-old man was shot to death on the street on the West Side on Aug. 6, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
- An unidentified man was killed on S. Michigan Ave in September.
When all is said and done we get this: the city has essentially become a mass of gang territory. This map from WBEZ 91.5 shows how much territory they're gaining and where the various gangs sit across the Windy City.
Now the Emanuel Administration is finally taking steps to secure the city against the Disciples and the city's other gangs.
The mayor was so concerned about gang violence in the city that he had certain liquor stores and gang-heavy communities closed, he told CBS News in July.
Emanuel also had abandoned buildings boarded up or torn down in areas 'where gang bangers have taken them over,' he told the TV station.
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