“The purpose of tearing down the projects was to regentrify the neighborhoods. And now, where there had been projects, you have chain stores, exclusive restaurants, delis, everything people want. But it also sent those gangs out into the neighborhoods, into new places in the city and the suburbs, places where they had not been.” He estimates that about 80 percent of Chicago’s homicides are gang-related…

Worse, the move out of the projects has made it easier to bring juveniles into the gangs. “In the homes, they had a limited number of juveniles at any given time. Now, it’s unlimited,” he explains. “You have juveniles rising to positions of power, and they just don’t have the street smarts or wisdom that even a Jeff Fort would. They’re doing impulsive things that the old guard just wouldn’t have dreamt of. And the money is bigger now, too. Before, the money went straight up to Hoover, Barksdale, or Fort, but now you have 1,000 leaders all competing for that. And you have the street gangs, the Mexican cartels, the narcotics, and the violence forming a unitary cultural phenomenon.” He’d like to see stricter gun control and stiffer sentences — “burying them” — for violent offenders. He cites procedural changes in the legal system making it more difficult to secure charges as a factor in the growing violence.

Chicago was the only U.S. city to break 500 murders last year, and that is a spike — but a spike only over the past few years. Chicago has seen these waves before: In 2008 the city saw 516 murders, and it had nearly 1,000 in 1974, the year David Barksdale’s past finally caught up with him and he died of kidney failure resulting from a gunshot wound suffered years before. Things have been worse in the past, but there is a sense that Chicago is moving in the wrong direction. New York City had nearly 2,000 murders in 1974, and more than 2,000 the year before. But those numbers are unthinkable today: New York City finally got control of itself, which is a big part of the reason why Rudy Giuliani, a thrice-married recreationally cross-dressing pro-choice big-city liberal, was taken seriously as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. Rahm Emanuel would need a miracle worthy of his surname to follow a similar path, to get Freckles to give up commerce and to get Mr. Butt to regard him as something other than a municipal joke. Chicago may have torn down the projects, but building the city is a different thing altogether.