2016 was a bad year for homicides in Chicago. The rate was up about 57% from the year prior and there were few areas of the city which were unaffected. Of all districts, it was the poorer ones who were most affected and the results were a chain of misery and human need.
It was easier to get a gun than a job commented the head of the public policy department at De Paul University, which alludes to one of the factors which has to be a contributor to the issue.
No one single factor
Unemployment is one of the factors which makes a difference but by no means is it the only one. Unemployment was not considerably worse in the 12-month period that saw the rise. Differences in police policy may account for some of the change.
The tradition is to blame teenage gangs, but the average age of the shooter was 26. Even that is a convenience. If you were in a teenage gang, what is the likelihood you are out of that world by the time you’re 26?
The story trotted out is trite
The easy answers are quickly debunked. Chicago’s homicide rate is less than 20% per 100,000 which is way lower than many other cities. The easy answers centering on gangs and teenagers don’t add up to the surge.
What they do is equate to an underlying picture where social need is a fact of life
In 2013 Chicago closed more than 50 public schools. In a similar timeframe, half the mental health clinics closed. Dropout kids from the school system found themselves on the streets. So, did people needing health care.
The reports into the homicide numbers don’t reflect the number where drugs and alcohol were involved, but it is reasonable to expect that the number is consistent with national numbers. Without laying the blame there, it is fair to acknowledge there is an effect.
The police are acknowledged to be between a rock and a hard place. Examples of police brutality incite outcry (as they should) and reciprocal violence, sometimes in the form of a riot. In certain neighborhoods, they are an oppressive force, not one of protection.
Yet it is only with police response that trouble can be calmed. This does not mean that tempers have calmed or the issues removed. It simply means the heat is taken out of the situation for a period of calm.
The roots of the problem
As always it comes back to the same basics of modern life; the right to a decent education, access to health facilities in general andmental health facilities specifically, and economic regeneration creating jobs – real jobs at all levels of the educational spectrum. Blue and white-collar workers both need jobs.
The issues in Chicago are much the same as the issues everywhere social distress makes for an unsettled population. Chicago carries with it a dark reputation which worsens the picture