A single block on Chicago’s West Side has been the scene of at least six shootings this year. A masked gunman shot a teen in the stomach. A father delivering groceries to his daughter was shot before he could escape gunfire. Last week, police again unspooled the yellow crime scene tape in the alley behind the block after a teen was fatally shot in the head, says the Chicago Tribune.
As Chicago heads into the often violent July Fourth weekend, these kinds of stories are common. At the halfway point of the year, homicides have jumped by 49 percent citywide to 312, reaching levels unseen since the late 1990s. Shooting incidents have risen even more, marking the third consecutive year of double-digit increases. While it doesn’t rank as the nation’s murder capital on a per-capita basis, Chicago is the runaway leader in the sheer volume of killings and shootings. New York and Los Angeles don’t even come close.
Through June 19, Chicago had more homicides than those two larger cities combined. The two combined had fewer than 1,000 shooting victims during that same period, while Chicago by Tuesday topped 1,900 — about 10 a day.
A complex mix of factors is driving the violence. Much of the bloodshed can be linked to gang conflict over everything from petty disputes to control of drug dealing, as well as the splintering of gangs into smaller cliques fighting over a few blocks at a time and easy access to guns. The increased violence comes as the police department confronts an unprecedented crisis that has cops under the harshest light. This has led many officers to feel unsure about stopping anyone. This week, the president of the police union said many officers feel that “no one has their backs.” Other veteran officers agree that Chicago cops are dispirited and have slowed down on the kind of proactive policing that can remove a gun or criminal from the street.