Monday, March 19, 2012

Chicago Crime: 10 dead, 49 wounded


Gang-related violence means something different now than it did a decade or two ago. Sadly, most of our popular knowledge on the topic (e.g. Gang Leader For A Day, Freakonomics) does not portray the new reality. 

Weekend Summary: 

I would say that it hasn't been this bad in a while, but I can remember a weekend in BOTH 2010 and 2011 that had roughly the same number of attacks and killings. Mind you, these numbers above don't even account for the dozens of other robberies and instances of simply battery that occurred over the weekend; fist fights and brawls tend to get a lot less attention than crimes involving a gun. 

Average Chicagoans will look at these numbers and ask why they happened. Insightful Chicagoans, however, will actually try and figure out why this violence arises. Success is secondary to the curiosity. Criminologists, public policy experts, police officers, and a host of other experts have met with only moderate success in themselves trying to explain the phenomenon. I find it far more important that an average citizen or warrior, one not payed to understand such violence, actually seeks out its causes and explanations.

In this case, I would only offer one word of caution to those trying to understand this sort of wanton killing. 

Examine underlying assumptions. Challenge them. 

How can this apply? For one, and most importantly, there is a tendency in Chicago crime to blame murders and shootings on gangs. Yes, Chicago does have a lot of gangs. Recent estimations put their membership at over 150,000 in our city alone. This figure surpasses even that of Los Angeles, a historical center of gang activity in America. Gang activity is definitely omnipresent in Chicago. That said, I encourage you to challenge the notion of what a "gang-related" attack is. 

Gang-related violence means something different now than it did a decade or two ago. Sadly, most of our popular knowledge on the topic (e.g. Gang Leader For A Day, Freakonomics) does not portray the new reality. There is really no such thing as a central gang hierarchy in most groups. Gang warfare should not connote an organized struggle between rival powers. Gangs of today are more like small terrorist cliques than syndicates. Think of Wild West bandits, not the Triads. Chicago's gangs today are often no more than isolated and insular sects of criminals operating on their own. They are groups of friends. For fun, they commit crime, but they also do as other normal teenagers and young men would do. It is a new face to gangs, and that is how we should consider this violence today.

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