Over a 48-hour period last weekend in downtown Chicago, three shots were fired within a mile of each other, killing two people. At the same time, about 17 people were shot in the city, most in areas with higher levels of violence.
However, it was the shooting in the city center, one near the Bolshoi Theater that canceled the evening’s performance, that attracted much media attention and city officials, including Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who on Monday was forced to talk about violence at unrelated press conferences. conference and which will undoubtedly face closer scrutiny as the race for mayor heats up.
Police leaders also had to answer for the outbreak of violence, quickly announcing that they would deploy more resources downtown.
Experts say much attention to the city center is happening for a variety of reasons.
It is the economic engine of the city, which brings in millions of tax revenue and tourist dollars. And additional downtown violence is straining resources in the police department, which is struggling to fight decades of consistently higher levels of violence in Chicago neighborhoods.
Downtown is also the public heart of the city, a place where Chicagoans from Rogers Park to Roseland gather together for concerts to go out on the beach, lay out on a picnic lawn, stare at a Bean mirror or splash in a fountain in Millennium Park. .
“Chicagoans feel they own the Loop,” said Bill Savage, who has taught Chicago literature and culture at Northwestern University for 30 years. “When the center of our city experiences this kind of violence, it beats everyone in a certain way. If it happens in a loop, it’s about you. ”
So far this year, gun violence – both homicides and non-fatal shootings – is declining, and this is good news in a city where the number of shootings has increased by 60% over the two years between 2020 and 2021.
But recent headlines about downtown issues have served as another reminder of how entrenched the problem of gun violence is and how it affects all parts of the city, including the glittering center of Chicago.
The number of downtown shootings has actually increased in recent years, and as of last week, 19 people have been shot together in the Middle North and Loop communities compared to eight last year.
Citywide violence has already led to promises by mayoral candidates to remove Chicago Police Chief David Brown when they are elected, and these Lightfoot opponents cite a lack of anti-violence strategy.
Brown was hired amid a historic pandemic that halted programs and services across the city. It was also a time when confidence in the police fell sharply across America after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Criminologists will study the long-term effects of these events, but some said there was a feeling that the pandemic stress combined with heightened police control could play a role in increasing gun violence.
However, Brown and the Chicago Police Department have faced repeated criticism from the Aldermen, a level of concern that only intensifies when downtown shootings erupt.
And it’s not just the shootings that worry some executives and the business community. There has long been concern about clashes and riots among large groups of young people who gather in the city center on weekends.
Chicago police did not provide specific details about the downtown response. The mayor’s office quoted the Tribune at Lightfoot’s press conference Monday, in which it said downtown would have more resources, and dismissed questions about its potential re-election campaign.
Lightfoot spoke about the difficult task of combating years of hopeless violence in some parts of Chicago.
“They lived with a lack of investment. They have been suffering from a lack of attention and attention to violence for too long, ”Lightfoot said.
She also returned to a familiar topic: the need for those involved in violence to face dire consequences.
Meanwhile, residents of Streeterville were in fear after the downtown incidents, said Deborah Gershbein, president of the Stritterville Active Residents Organization.
Gershbein said the level of gun violence across the city is unacceptable, and although she understands the need for long-term approaches, her neighbors are afraid to walk at night.
“I have lived in this district for 32 years. This has never happened before. I walked everywhere, ”Gershbein said. “How to give people a sense of security?”
Both experts and community organizers told the Tribune that common concerns about a central gathering space like Loop, which suffers from gun violence, also provide an opportunity for shared solutions.
Chicago criminologist David Stoval said there is “alienation” in communities that are systematically deprived of resources and opportunities, and this plays a role in the outbreak of gun violence. Every victim must support well-thought-out decisions.
“Lincoln Park has never had a massive problem. Or Streetville, ”said Stoval, a professor in the Department of Black Studies, and Criminology, Law and Justice at UIC. “… I don’t want to downplay the violence because it’s real. (Solutions), unfortunately, or fortunately not short-lived. … You can’t criminalize your way out of this. “
Savage of the Northwest State also said there is room for new impetus.
“The key is that when we perceive the Loop as the heart of our city, we are still connected to any other part in which we live,” Savage said. “But connect yourself to those parts where we don’t live? It’s such a hard imaginary leap. Can people from Jefferson Park who work downtown imagine what it would be like to live in Garfield Park, Ashburn or Pullman? ”
Downtown shootings last weekend began at 1 a.m. Saturday in the 300th quarter on North State Street.
Two women from the North Londale neighborhood were shot dead by men during an argument in the street. One of the women, 26, later died.
A day later, Sunday morning, an 18-year-old man was killed in multiple gunshot wounds at an Sonesta hotel on East Walton Place. And about 10 hours later, in the 100th quarter of North Wabash, two men were shot dead in an alley behind the Nederlander Theater after a conflict over robbery and a drug deal escalated nearby.
The shooting in broad daylight led to the closure of the theater that night, including the cancellation of the play “Moulin Rouge”.
No charges have been filed in any of the cases so far.
One of the two injured in Sunday’s shooting was a 27-year-old man who was walking home from the gym with his wife, he told Tribune in a telephone interview.
He heard a crack and then felt pain in his arm, said the man, who asked not to be named.
According to him, people parted, the couple got behind the car and heard a second shot.
“I pretty quickly combined the two and the two – an explosion plus pain plus bleeding,” he said. “… This is an amazing series of emotions that need to come together. It’s not something I’ve ever felt before, so it was like registering the fact that it actually happened. ”
Although the shooter was about a 20-minute walk from his home, he said he was not afraid to be downtown, noting statistics show: his community remains relatively safe. He only plans to avoid Wabash in the future.
“It’s one of those things when, when you’re in a big city, it’s a statistical chance that it will happen,” he said. “I think it was an opportunity always in my head. … But again, this statistical probability that this will happen is a relatively rare occurrence. I think downtown is still a very safe area. I still feel safe walking around it. ”
Despite attention to downtown incidents, gun violence in neighborhoods is a daily experience that some neighborhoods find harder to avoid.
According to the city portal until May 3, the rate of fire per 10,000 inhabitants in the settlements of Loop and the Middle North was 1.8 and 1.3. For example, in historically less secure areas of the city, the figure reaches 21 in West Garfield Park and 11.2 in Greater Grand Crossing.
Chondra Wrightworks is in the Greater Grand Crossing area with young people who are being abused, and meets regularly with police in her local area to try to prevent violence that is now being felt in other parts of the city.
She also heads downtown to regularly walk the trail from Rush Street to the Cloud Gate sculpture. So the shooting in downtown Chicago shocked her as well.
Wright agrees that the violence that takes place there reflects what was happening in the neighborhood. And she said that’s why decisions need to go beyond the deployment strategy over the weekend. It’s about citywide efforts and visions, she said.
“I’m thoroughly Chicago,” Wright said. “The center is an escape. This is the space where people migrate for this peace, this freedom, this bliss. What would Chicago be like if we could have the same spirit and energy in any part of Chicago? ”