So how was your Memorial Day weekend? We went to visit my father’s grave along with some other veterans and then spent a quiet, contemplative evening at home. But if you live in certain parts of Chicago, it probably wasn’t nearly as peaceful as mine. No less than 49 people finished up Memorial Day weekend in the Windy City with bullet holes in them and five of them will not live to see the holiday roll around again next year. Now, given the trends we’ve seen of late, it’s still a tragedy, but sadly not all that remarkable to hear about nearly fifty people being gunned down in that city over a three day period. The stunning part is that at least some observers are describing it as a “sign of progress.” (USA Today)
The grim tally of 49 shot over Memorial Day weekend, historically one of the most violent times of the year here, is oddly the latest sign the city may be turning a corner in the fight against gun violence.
Five people were killed and 44 wounded in shootings between Friday evening and Monday night, an improvement over last year’s total of 7 killed and 61 injured.
The decrease highlights the slow progress police say they’ve made in the first five months of the year to reduce Chicago’s stubbornly high murder rate through technology that helps commanders better deploy street cops.
In some situations we simply have to be thankful for tiny blessings I suppose and this might be one of them. Any sign of improvement is better than seeing the numbers going the other way, but Rahm Emanuel has had a long time to wrestle with this problem and he’s simply not getting the job done. A quick look at where we stand as of yesterday tells the tale. Chicago is up to 235 murders this year through Memorial Day weekend. Okay… that’s nine less than the 244 they’d racked up last year at this time, but… c’mon, man. The total number of shootings (including non-fatal incidents) is being described as having dropped “more significantly.” (1,047 instead of the 1,222 recorded by this time in 2016.) So it’s better on both counts. Congratulations.
But Chicago is a city of roughly 2.7 million people. (And for the record, it’s the only major American city currently losing population rather than growing. That’s no doubt a combination of those heading for the graveyard and others fleeing the violence.) By contrast, take a look at New York City. We don’t have this week’s figures in yet, but as of one week ago they had recorded 95 murders for the year. And they’ve got a population of 8.5 million people… more than three times as many as Chicago. Los Angeles, still famous for it’s huge gang populations, has a population just short of four million. They were alarmed at the “sharp increase” in murders this year when they reached 48 in the second week of March. By that point Chicago was already well into triple digits.
I’m not faulting the Chicago PD for this. They do the best they can with what they have. But they are trying to police a city which is totally out of control with fewer officers. And in addition to fighting the criminals out in the streets they are battling a mayor and city council which prefer to depict the cops as the problem than talk about the gang violence which is ripping the place apart. Rather than trying to “reform” how the police interact with the community and “hold them accountable” perhaps Rahm Emanuel could focus some of his attention on the literal war taking place in his back yard.