Sunday, January 27, 2013

Chicago Crime: 25 degrees, 6 homicides, 4 siblings

Conventional wisdom holds that warm weather leads to high crime. March 2012 was an unseasonably balmy month, which led to an unbelievable spike in Chicago violent crime from which we never recovered. Similarly, cold weather tends to have the opposite effect. Criminals, much like the rest of us, prefer to stay bundled inside rather than roaming the windblasted Chicago streets. That was certainly true in New York City, where the recent cold front has also frozen the homicide rate; NYC recorded 0 murders over the last 9 days. Of course, as with hot dogs and pizzas, Chicago crime does not abide by New Yorker rules.

With temperatures not exceeding the mid 20s, our city saw 6 homicides on Saturday. As if that were not enough of an anomaly, one of the shootings involved a shotgun and a rifle, and another was classified as a double homicide (Chicago's second of the year). The use of weaponry was particularly unusual, given that Chicago's criminals overwhelmingly favor handguns to other firearms.

In a devastating and tragic turn, one of the victims was 33-year-old Ronnie Chambers, the last of 4 siblings to be killed by gun violence in this city. His mother, Shirley Chambers, has now lost all of her children to homicide: 18-year-old Carlos Chambers in 1995, 15-year-old LaToya Chambers in 2000, and 23-year-old Jerome Chambers also in 2000. The Chambers' family tragedy may have made the headlines today, but it is by no means unique to many households of Chicago.

Indeed, as you might imagine, everything else about these attacks was more predictable than an NRA gun rights speech. Boys are killed in the same neighborhoods today where their older brothers, fathers, uncles, cousins, and friends died twenty years ago. The CPD has made no arrests. No witnesses have come forward. Onlookers accused the police of arriving too late, and police officers accused onlookers of not calling in the crimes. And perhaps the most notable, or rather grimly obvious, is that all of the victims were black males. Given Chicago crime patterns, they could easily have been any young (or older) male of color, whether black, brown, Hispanic, or any other non-white race.

In light of recent Congressional efforts towards stricter (or more lenient?) firearm regulation, I am compelled to share stories like these. They will make the Tribune front page for 12 to 24 hours before being relegated to the side column. And from there, they will disappear entirely by the next sports team victory or snow day record. For the average reader of this blog, an educated, socially aware, politically involved individual like myself and my friends, days like this cannot go forgotten.

The Chambers family is no more or less tragic than Sandy Hook, and to even think of it in those terms is barbaric. But they both represent different sides of America's gun violence, and we need to consider both of them in our personal and political dialogue. It is idealistic, or flat out ignorant, to think that a set of policies designed to stop (and treat) the Adam Lanzas and James Holmeses of our country will also stop and treat the murderers of Chicago. In this current policy window, perhaps it might be prudent to just tackle the issues that our leaders have the capital to make progress on (e.g. universal background checks). No matter what happens, let us not forget days like Saturday.

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