July 7, 2016


Chicago on the Brink : A retreat from proactive policing has unleashed mayhem in the city. (Heather Mac Donald, Summer 2016, City Journal)

Social breakdown lies behind Chicago's historically high levels of violence. Fatherlessness in the city's black community is at a cataclysmic level--close to 80 percent of children are born to single mothers in high-crime areas. Illegitimacy is catching up fast among Hispanics, as well. Gangs have stepped in where fathers are absent. A 2012 gang audit documented 59 active street gangs with 625 factions, some controlling a single block. Schools in gang territories go on high alert at dismissal time to fend off violence. Endemic crime has prevented the commercial development and gentrification that are revitalizing so many parts of Chicago closer to downtown; block after block on the South Side features a wan liquor store or check-cashing outlet, surrounded by empty lots and the occasional skeleton of a once-magnificent beaux-arts apartment complex or bank. Nonfunctioning streetlights, their fuse boxes vandalized, signal the reign of a local gang faction.

But disorder, bad before, seems to be worsening. The night after my conversations with Felicia Moore and City Streets, dozens of teens burst into the intersection of Cicero and Madison on the West Side, stopping traffic and ignoring the loud approach of a fire truck. They hold their cell phones high, the new sign of urban empowerment. Earlier that day, a fight involving at least 60 teens took over a nearby intersection, provoking a retaliatory shooting two days later at a local fried-chicken restaurant. On May 14, a 13-year-old girl stabbed a 15-year-old girl to death in a South Side housing complex; the murderer's mother had given her the knife. In the summer of 2015, wolf packs of teens marauded down Michigan Avenue's Magnificent Mile, robbing stores and pedestrians. The phenomenon started even earlier this year. A couple strolling on Lake Shore Drive downtown on Memorial Day weekend were chased by more than a half-dozen young men, at least one armed with a gun. The two tried to escape across the highway, the teens in hot pursuit. A pickup truck hit the couple, killing the female. A police officer flashed his emergency lights at the teens, and they fled. "If it wasn't for the police being there at the time, I don't know where I might be now," the surviving man told the Chicago Sun-Times. "Six feet under?"

Public-order infractions, otherwise known as "Broken Windows" offenses, abound. Stand just a few minutes on a South or West Side thoroughfare, and someone will stride by hawking bootleg CDs or videos and loose cigarettes. Oliver, a 34-year-old with a Bloods tattoo and alcohol on his breath, has just been frisked by the police in a West Side White Castle parking lot around 9:30 PM. "The police are assholes," he says. "I know my rights; I'm selling CDs, so I know I'm doing something wrong, but they weren't visible in my bag." Oliver then sells two loosies to a passerby, laboriously counting out change from a five-dollar bill.

Some law-abiding Chicagoans blame the rising violence on just such street disorder. After a woman and four men were shot at a bus stop on the South Side in May, a local resident complained about the illegal vending. "This sort of congregation of people who meet at this space dealing drugs and selling loose cigarettes . . . is despicable," he told the Chicago Tribune. The drug trade is less overt but more ubiquitous than the trafficking in CDs and loosies. As I approach a Jamaican jerk restaurant on the West Side, the young men in front melt away. "You saw what happened when you pulled up here--everyone disappeared," a middle-aged man tells me. "They sell drugs everywhere."

The majority of victims in the current crime wave are already known to the police. Four-fifths of the Memorial Day shooting victims, for example, were on the Chicago Police Department's list of gang members deemed most prone to violence.

Depopulate it.
Posted by at July 7, 2016 4:20 PM