Chicago is wrapping up its most deadly month on record since the mid-90s, with more than 480 people shot and 78 dead, almost all of them ascribed to gang violence. (Plus any that they manage to sneak in before midnight tonight.) The total number of murders for the year is nearing 500 – well on track for a record – and there’s still a full four months to go. This grim milestone adds up to more murders than New York City and Los Angeles combined.
We’ve pretty much run out of awful adjectives to describe what’s going on in the Windy City, but there are important lessons to take away. For years now I’ve been following the work of Chicago’s resident editorial observer John Kass and he’s published an explanation for why the bad new days are even worse than the bad old days. There’s always been gang violence in his town, but at least some of it used to be tamped down because the gangs were afraid of the cops. Not so anymore. Today you aren’t allowed to talk about the gangs because it’s more politically expedient to talk about “gun violence.”
Some call it “gun violence,” a definition greatly appreciated by Democratic politicians like those at City Hall. They can point to guns and take that voter anger over homicide numbers and channel it into a safe space.
But there are plenty of guns in the suburbs, and suburbanites aren’t slaughtering each other.
It’s the gang wars.
Politicians know that the gangs are reason for the deaths. Calling it “gun violence” is much safer, especially in wards where gangs often provide political muscle.
“Have you ever heard a Chicago alderman call out a street gang by name?” O’Connor asked. “No? Me neither.”
Kass covers the history of John Daley and his tenure running the city. There were plenty of warts associated with that era, but Daley at least had a grip on what the real problems were. It would be dishonest to claim that Rahm Emanual doesn’t have the same information at his disposal, but as Kass points out, nobody talks about it anymore. It’s considered impolitic to speak of the gangs and it will quickly result in your being branded a socially insensitive racist.
The decreased influence of the police has not gone unnoticed by the gang members either. Kass recounts the disturbing story of a video which recently surfaced and it tells the whole story. The police were investigating a murder and nearly a dozen gang members showed up and, “confronted them, harassed them, mocked them on the street, hurling epithets, angry, defiant.”
That wouldn’t have happened in the old days, but now the gangs no longer fear the police. They have little reason to most of the time. So what will Chicago’s municipal government do about it? We’ll see calls for another round of gun control laws while politicians remain silent about the real problem. This won’t solve anything. The cops know it. The Mayor knows it. The citizens being murdered on a daily basis know it.
And the gangs know it.