Gun Availability Called Key Reason For Chicago’s Violent Crime Rise


Last month, Chicago saw its deadliest September in 13 years. The murder total is up 21 percent from last year. The Christian Science Monitor says the rise in violent crime has been mirrored in several major cities, such as Milwaukee, Baltimore, Houston, New Orleans, St. Louis, and Atlanta. Some possible influences could be similar, such as tensions between police and minority communities or the supposed “Ferguson effect” of police patrolling streets less aggressively for fear of being a part of the next scandal. Perhaps Chicago's bigger lesson is that local factors appear to be more relevant than any national trend. “I think what we're seeing now really is a lot of different things happening in different cities,” says Roseanna Ander of the University of Chicago Crime Lab. “There really isn't, as far as I can tell, any one thing that is happening across the nation to explain the increases or decreases in violent crime.”

Those who study crime trends caution against drawing broad conclusions from these recent swells in crime; year-to-year fluctuations are common, and several cities have seen a decrease in violent crime this year. In Chicago, these factors include the splintering of gangs after the jailing of major gang leaders and the destruction of low-income housing projects. Lingering racial segregation and poor access to jobs and services after the recession have exacerbated the problem. The most important difference between Chicago and cities such as New York and Los Angeles is the number of guns, says Ander. “The Chicago Police Department takes between eight and nine guns per capita for every one gun that the NYPD takes off the street, and between two and three guns for every one gun that the LAPD takes off the street,” she explains. “Our crime is more likely to involve guns and so it is more likely to have a very serious outcome: shootings or homicides.”

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