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Chicago is one of the most famous cities in The States. Home to the beloved football team Chicago Bears, the marvellous Cloud Gate, and the place where American pizza is perfected, Chicago is frequented by tourists worldwide.
The suburbs of Chicago are some of the most beautiful places to live in. However, there are sides of the city many people neglect. Everyone knows about the city as one of the most happening and popular cities in America, but this all just curtains the real city of Chicago.
Through this article, we will be unravelling one of the darker sides of Chicago.
According to the Chicago Police Department, the weekly crime rate of the city is 54%. Shooting incidents alone are 24%. Even with highly trained law enforcement, the percentage of violent crimes increases every day.
The United States of America has high homicide rates because of gun violence. Since U.S citizens are legally allowed to have the right to buy guns, gun violence is a widespread crime here.
The annual homicide by gun violence recorded in 2021 was 40,175 people. The second amendment to keep and bear arms was passed in the country’s Constitution when it was being founded in 1791.
There have been many debates over Gun Control in the country, but all of them go deaf to the ears. Every time a state tried to pass a law against the Second Amendment, it was ruled out by the Supreme Court.
Organized crime has been rising in Chicago, and in the past four years, many victims have fallen prey to it. The Chicago Police Department has held many meetings with the founders and heads of the city to strengthen security and incorporate measures that decrease the rate of Chicago violence.
B. Chicago Communities
One of the many reasons Chicago is so famous is its widespread culture. Chicago is home to as many as 77 Hispanic, Black, and Jewish community neighbourhoods. It is known as one of the most diverse cities in the U.S.
Unfortunately, these neighbourhoods mostly suffer from poverty and systemic racism, which leads to the organization of gangs and gang violence. Many innocent people are killed every day because of the collateral damage caused due to violence.
The main community blocks in Chicago are to the west of the city. The Heart of Chicago, Pilsen, North Lawndale, Lower West Side, Hyde Park, Garfield Park, etc., are some of the more active community areas of the city.
These areas suffer from a lot of criminal activity and are victimized regularly. The Chicago Police Department surely is trying to stop this from happening but at the same time fails to do so. These neighbourhoods will always be reputable for gang activities and violence despite the city’s efforts.
1. West Garfield Park
This neighbourhood is infamous for being the least safe place in Chicago. The crime rate recorded in this neighbourhood is 409% higher than the average country’s crime rate.
Gangs are usually formed to protect the neighbourhood from the outside world. But most of the time, things escalate, and innocents are bound to get hurt. Being a victim of violence in this area has a 1/20 shot. Getting caught in gang retaliation is very easy in this part of the city.
Pilsen is a Hispanic neighbourhood near the Heart of Chicago. Gang violence in this part of the town since the 1980s. Crime is a common topic on the streets of Pilsen. Many lives have been lost in crossfires across the neighbourhood.
According to WTTW news, in 1979, there were 67.4 murders per 100,000 residents. This was the peak of Pilsen’s crime rate. Gentrification and racism are mostly the roots of this violence in the city.
Pilsen has a tradition of hosting vigils and marches every time anyone falls victim to the criminal activities of the neighbourhood. Pilsen has a special way to deal with criminal activities and gang violence in their neighborhood.
The Ressurection Project is an organization that holds block parties, events, and community gatherings every time someone gets shot. At one point, according to WTTW news, after a 17-year-old girl got shot, the neighborhood held a night-long “camp-out” on the streets of Pilsen. They say that if they just keep their heads down and do nothing, then the gangs will win, and violence will continue. They want to fight and show them that peace can be achievable.
3. North Lawndale
Lawndale was a part of the INVEST program started by Mayor Lori Lightfoot that promised to revive the neighbourhoods that helped Chicago first flourish as a city.
This part of the city is home to the Jewish and Black communities. The total crime rate of the block is 9,969 per 100,000 people. Lawndale came to be known as the largest Jewish settlement in Chicago. Where there is a minority population, there is racism. Anti-sematic crimes are fairly common in this area; hence gang formations are frequent.
This community is very supportive of each other because they face everything together. They have support groups, and some of them have also started North Lawndale Restorative Justice Community Court.
Englewood, like Hyde Park, is an African-American neighbourhood.
Like most Black neighbourhoods in America, this one also faces a hundred problems every day. Street shootings, acts of racism leading to violence, gun violence, innocents being shot, and many more are common occurrences here.
This is why falling prey comes easy in this area. They live below the poverty line, and their crime rate is 264% higher than the country average.
Around 800 people were fatally shot from Englewood to Garfield Park in the past year due to gun violence. Gang violence not only includes hunting down rivals and killing them but it also includes literally shooting the messenger, kids who meddle, or even innocents who don’t comply.
Homicides are up 19% in the city of Chicago, while shootings are up 26%, according to Chicago Police Data.
5. Hyde Park
Hyde Park is another violent neighbourhood that contributes to violence. Its crime rate leans more towards armed robberies and aggravated battery.
You would think that the security in this neighbourhood must be as tight as it gets. However, the University of Chicago students in the area care more about crime prevention than the Chicago Police Officers.
There have been multiple marches by students asking for more police protection. Fear stirs in the air every time someone is shot in the neighbourhood.
Many Chicago activists face threats and violent crimes every day and are always scared for their lives. Innocent people are shot even while just driving because they got lost and stumbled upon the wrong neighbourhood.
Gang shootings and gun violence take place in broad daylight. Chicago is a common ice breaker for the residents of Chicago.
South Chicago is the most dangerous place to live in in the city. Police squad cars are always swarming Englewood, Hyde Park, and Garfield Park.
Even on the weekends in the evenings, you do not see many people roaming outside, just Police cars. Everyone tries to rush home before the gang activities start. Parents are always trying to protect their children from the police and the gangs.
You do not want to get involved or caught up in any of the things that go down at night in the streets of these neighbourhoods.
The Chicago Police Department has placed many Chicago officials and Criminal Justice Officers at different corners of the city to watch gun violence and shootings, which have increased by 20% this year, according to the Sun-Times analysis of city data.
C. School Shootings
As of 2021, there have been 65 school shootings in Illinois, which is the fifth-highest in the United States.
School shootings are one of the many crimes that contribute to violence. Mass shootings are tragic crimes that have taken thousands of innocent lives in just the past five years. Parents are always scared for their kids’ lives.
Recently, on 6th December 2021, a 15 year-old-boy was fatally shot, a bus driver was beaten and cops who responded to the distress were injured by 22 juvenile gang members. This little boy was one of 9 people who died of gun violence that day in Chicago.
During one of the recent shootings targeting international students at the University of Chicago, the University got strict about adding more surveillance cameras around the campus.
The Chicago Police Department also got involved with the extra protection following three different incidents. Over 200 international students held a rally demanding more protection on and around campus. The University reacted to this, saying that it has become their top priority to administer non-violence policies.
These mass shooting incidents in high schools have led to fatal consequences. Natives of Chicago are abandoning their hometowns and living in safer cities of the country.
D. Safety Gap Widens
The “safety gap” is the difference between the highest and lowest rates of gunshots and homicides in a neighbourhood.
To elaborate, the “safety gap” is the difference between the criminal activities that take place in the safer areas of the city and the more dangerous areas of the city. The dangerous areas comprise the 77 communities of Chicago, mostly inhabited by the African-American and Hispanic communities.
More than half of the crimes in Chicago take place in community neighborhoods, and most of the victims are community members. Public safety has become the Mayor’s top priority, as mentioned in her new plan “Our City, Our Safety” campaign, to reduce violence.
E. Prevention Strategic Plan
As the Introduction and Overview of the Chicago Violence Prevention Strategic Plan stated, it was revealed that many victims who reported violence were afraid to go to hospitals because they were in fear of crossing gang lines. This is one of the many reasons why the Prevention Strategic Plan came into being.
This planning committee promised to exert conscious efforts and conveniences to help different communities that are affected. The committee did not want to change anything or force people to do things out of their comfort zone.
The planning council and committee were to be formed with the help of over 160 participants including key stakeholders, organizations, and city officials.
In the absence of a national surveillance system, a collaboration between the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and the Chicago Department of Public Health has led to the creation of the violent crimes data set. After analyzing the data, they focused on the main types of victims: children, youth, intimate partners, and the elderly.
They made an analysis that showed that since 1996, simple battery assault was the most common type of crime seen and homicide was the rarest type of crime that contributed to violence.
Although for three years in a row before 1996, the most common type of death, especially for people of colour, was death by homicide. This only occurred among the youth of Chicago, between the ages of 15-24.
They also found that gender played a very important role in the victim and offenders involved in the crime. For example, females were more prone to sexual assault, while men were more prone to battery and homicide.
We all know America’s history with racism. Especially in a diverse city like Chicago, the probability of people of colour being victims is more than a caucasian being a victim.
Most of the crimes committed, though, are race-on-race crimes. For example, gang wars only take place among same-race people.
Intimacy also plays an important role. For example, almost half of the homicide victims knew their attacker. Domestic abuse and sex offenses take place only among people’s friends, families, and acquaintances.
Many times, gangs start recruiting children and young people. They use them either as messengers or drug mules. This leads the children to end up in danger.
There is a Victim Services Department in Chicago that provides case management and advocacy, counselling, legal advocacy, legal services, shelters, primary prevention, visitation services, and linkages to child protection services for child victims and witnesses.
Most of the child victim cases are handled by the child welfare departments. Since many children are orphaned because of the crimes of the city, there are Child Welfare Departments set up by the city officials that help the children through the process of the system.
Why this plan fail?
Although this Crime Prevention plan looks good on paper, it has failed the city in protecting and serving.
Many separate incidents have taken place that have proved this plan to be a disappointment.
Even though there are good post-victimization measures in the plan, there is no violence reduction program that can decrease or stop the killings and shootings on the streets.
Public safety should be the number one priority of the police department, but despite their tries, the homicide rates and gun violence rates keep increasing day by day.
There is hardly any justice provided to the families of the victims. No city council holds trials when it comes to the gang member involved in the crime. This is because of fear. Everyone fears their loved ones’ lives when it comes to matters related to gangs.
Although many gang members have been caught, several police officers have been injured or killed while doing so.
F. Mayor Lightfoot’s “Our City, Our Safety” Plan
The Mayor of the city of Chicago is, Lori Elaine Lightfoot, has taken into her own hands since 2019 to reduce the city’s crime rate. She is determined and has rational plans for the city that can help it overcome the bad reputation it has gained.
In addition to the city’s violence prevention plan, the Mayor recently pledged to make Chicago the “safest city in the country.” The main objective of this plan is to reduce the “safety gap” of the city of Chicago.
Though skeptical about this plan, the community members are in full support of it since the Mayor has promised to execute it according to the already existing community-based organizations.
This plan promises to look mainly at the 15 priority community areas that face the most gun violence and non-fatal shootings—Austin, North Lawndale, Humboldt Park, West Garfield Park, Englewood, etc.
This plan also sees to increase police forces all over the city. Increased protection means increased public safety.
What the city should expect from this plan (according to the official website of the city of Chicago) is the following.
- The “Safety Gap” – the difference in the rate of shootings and homicides in community areas with the highest and lowest levels while not decreasing safety in safer community areas.
- Number of serious victimizations (fatal and non-fatal shootings) and reported violent crimes (victim and incident counts)
- Community perception of safety, trust in law enforcement, and connectedness with City government
The city is under a lot of pressure, especially in this political environment. The only hope Chicago has is the Mayor’s City Safety Plan.
Now there you go. Hopefully, this article could shed some light on violence. Violence hurts different sections of society, especially children. Whether the Mayor’s City’s Safety Plan works or not can only be observed in the future. But we sincerely hope it does.