Why Chicago’s Violence Increase Is So Severe

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Over Memorial Day weekend, the New York Times tracked every shooting in Chicago. The largest concentration of them happened in a six-square-mile area that makes up the 11th police district. Of 64 people shot that weekend, 16 were in this district. The Times returned to the blocks in the 11th District where the Memorial Day weekend shootings occurred to try to better understand Chicago’s crisis of violence. Residents along Walnut Street and at other crime scenes told of a fractured community isolated by the city’s entrenched segregation, hollowed out by joblessness and poverty, and battered by resignation and indifference, the Times reports.

On Walnut Street, one vacant lot has been there so long that walking paths are worn through it. Young men gather on this section of the street, and neighbors hear calls for “Pills!” or “Flats!”— slang for drugs — in the middle of the day. Cycles reinforce themselves: Poverty and joblessness breed an underground economy that leads to jail and makes it harder to get jobs. Struggling, emptying schools result in the closings of the institutions that hold communities together. Segregation throws up obstacles to economic investment. “People and programs with good intentions come and go, thwarting hopes, reinforcing frustrations while never quite addressing the underlying problems,” the Times says. There is a lethal mix of readily available guns, a growing number of splintering gangs and groups, and a sense among some that the punishment for carrying a weapon on these streets will never be larger than the risk of not carrying one. “It’s about desperation, decadence, depression and rage,” says the Rev. Marshall E. Hatch Sr., who has given eulogies for at least 12 victims of violence this year. “It’s the concentration of all of that, all in one place.” Homicides citywide are up 56 percent compared to last year and shootings are up about 49 percent. Five of the 22 police districts are driving Chicago’s rise. All are on the South or West Sides.

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