Where Chicago’s going in 2017, and beyond

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A “No guns” sign at an entrance to a Chicago “L” station. Photo credit: Mrs. Gemstone

So far in 2017, Chicago has seen 165 homicides and 865 shootings which, while down slightly from last year, are still very disturbing numbers. I’ve kept track of the statistics and tried to highlight some individual cases and possible solutions over the course of this blog, and what’s become apparent is this: the violence is not really decreasing, meaningful solutions are not being seriously pursued and are most likely a long way off, and the result is that people are leaving the city, its image is not great, and its youth are endangered in the cycle of murder and mayhem.

Yesterday, shootings across Chicago left one dead, and victims of shootings included three 17-year-olds. More violence, some random, some targeted, is keeping the city on edge. This year has not been “as bad” as last, some might say, but it is on pace to end up one of Chicago’s worst in decades. Chicago’s Homicide Watch has a summary of only this week’s extensive violence, and concludes that 2017 is not a turn for the better.

So what to do about it? As I’ve written before, investment in protecting and supporting kids will go a long way to curb future violence and gang involvement. Giving young ones good schools to attend and meaningful programs to keep them busy will raise a better crop of citizens than those forced through a crumbling public schooling system as has been the case for years. And good parenting and neighborhood watchfulness help too; here’s an example of motivated mothers keeping their kids and their block safe, in a city where more than 100 children have been shot this year: Mothers in ‘gang for good’ try to keep youths safe during spring break.

Police reform and community engagement will go toward giving law enforcement the respect and control they need to maintain the peace, and hopefully avoid repeating mistakes of the past including terrible relationships with minorities and a code of silence leading to broken structure and discipline in the CPD. The DoJ has made it clear that Chicago’s police has long been antagonistic to the city’s black and Hispanic population, and while those communities have statistically brought out more violence, racially biased policing is no way to solve that. Transparency on the force and a strong move toward community policing can eventually fix what decades of profiling and disregard for humanity have not. The city recently announced a revamped oversight agency to watch the CPD, as part of an effort to improve the department’s reputation following the Laquan McDonald fiasco. While potentially well-intentioned, moves like this actually need to have follow through and not just talk; incidents like McDonald’s shooting can’t happen any more.

Above street level, Chicago and Illinois lawmakers really need to crack down on violent criminals and illegal guns. Surrounded by states without major metropolises and more lax gun laws, Chicagoans have easy access to weapons of murder only hours away. Gun crimes and violence need meaningful punishment in the justice system, and laws need enforcement and perhaps strengthening. Second chances are important, but are not always deserved, and the law must work harder to keep Chicago safe.

There’s no easy solution and the city can’t reform all its problem overnight. But perhaps the absurdity of 2016 and 2017’s violence will really open some eyes, and get those in power to start moving on what needs to be done.

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