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Davey reports: "The overall rise in killings here blurs another truth: the homicides...have not been spread evenly across this city."

2013 began with three gun homicides on New Year's Day in Chicago. (photo: unknown)
2013 began with three gun homicides on New Year's Day in Chicago. (photo: unknown)

Gun Homicides Ravaging Chicago

By Monica Davey, The New York Times

06 January 13


his city's 471st homicide of 2012 happened in the middle of the day, in the middle of a crowd, on the steps of the church where the victim of homicide 463 was being eulogized. Sherman Miller, who was 21, collapsed amid gunfire not far from the idling hearse that was there to carry away James Holman, 32, shot to death a week earlier.

The funeral shooting at St. Columbanus Catholic Church on the South Side left neighbors fretting that no place, not even a church, felt safe any longer. "It's become the Wild Wild West," said Charles Childs Jr., who had watched from across the street as mourners screamed and scattered.

The shooting, on Nov. 26, was one more jarring reminder of just how common killings seem to have grown on the streets of Chicago, the nation's third-largest city, where 506 homicides were reported in 2012, a 16 percent increase over the year before, even as the number of killings remained relatively steady or dropped in some cities, including New York.

But the overall rise in killings here blurs another truth: the homicides, most of which the authorities described as gang-against-gang shootings, have not been spread evenly across this city. Instead, they have mostly taken place in neighborhoods west and south of Chicago's gleaming downtown towers.

Already, 2013 began with three gun homicides on New Year's Day, two of them on the South Side. Like other cities, Chicago has long been a segregated place, richer and whiter on the North Side, and the city's troubling increase in killings has accentuated a longstanding divide.

"It's two different Chicagos," said the Rev. Corey B. Brooks Sr., the pastor of New Beginnings Church on the South Side, who had led the funeral service for Mr. Holman the day shots rang out, then found himself leading Mr. Miller's funeral service a week later. The authorities here have described both shootings as gang related. "If something like that had happened at the big cathedral in downtown Chicago or up north at a predominantly white church, it would still be on the news right now, it would be such a major thing going on."

More than 80 percent of the city's homicides took place last year in only about half of Chicago's 23 police districts, largely on the city's South and West Sides. The police district that includes parts of the business district downtown reported no killings at all. And while at least one police district on the city's northern edge saw a significant increase in the rate of killings, the total number there still was dwarfed by deaths in districts on the other sides of town, and particularly in certain neighborhoods.

Along the streets downtown and in neighborhoods on the North Side not far from Lake Michigan, some residents acknowledged that they had heard about a rise in the city's homicide rate, but said it had not affected their own sense of safety. "This area is a bit of a Garden of Eden," said Gwen Sylvain, as she walked dogs along a residential street not far from the Loop.

Others said they rarely had reason to go to the Chicago's South or West Sides, only a few miles away, and some longtime residents said they had never once ventured to such neighborhoods. Police business on the North Side rarely seems to rise beyond an overly enthusiastic Cubs fan or a parking quibble, said Kyong Lee, who said that in the past he had, without consequence, forgotten to lock up his family's shoe repair business.

In Back of the Yards, a South Side neighborhood near the city's old meatpacking district, the tenor was far different. Mothers spoke of keeping their children inside from the moment school ended, and businessmen of decisions to lock the front doors of their shops during business hours. "I don't go out at night," said Jesse Martinez, who recalled the gun pressed to his head as he was robbed a few years ago inside the hat and boot store he has run for 32 years.

Over all, crime in Chicago dropped 9 percent in 2012 from the year before in what city officials say was the largest decrease in 30 years. Among crimes that saw dips last year: rape, robbery and car theft. With the city's longtime gangs splintering into factions and increasing problems with retaliatory violence, homicides rose suddenly in the first three months of the year -- running some 60 percent ahead of the year earlier -- creating a pace that slowed significantly as the year went on.

City officials attributed the improvement to a broad anti-gang strategy that includes an elaborate police audit of gang members, removal of vacant buildings and efforts to involve neighbors. Some have called for increased gun control legislation; of 7,000 guns recovered by the Chicago police in recent months, handguns are most common, but 300 were assault weapons.

"A child shot is a child of the City of Chicago," Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who lives on the North Side, said in an interview in which he addressed the long-held divisions in a city known for its endless array of distinct neighborhoods on the North, South and West Sides. "Don't anybody think that it's ‘over there,' " the mayor said. "It's a tear on this city."

No arrests have been made in the deaths of Mr. Holman or Mr. Miller, who died on the steps of the church that Al Capone's mother once attended regularly and where Barack Obama distributed food to the needy just after he was elected president in 2008. The authorities say three guns were believed to be present when Mr. Miller died. The police say Mr. Miller was carrying a gun. And bullet casings from two other weapons were found on the steps.

At Mr. Miller's funeral in December, a large contingent of Chicago police officers waited outside.

"It's gotten to the point, unfortunately, where something as significant as a funeral is subject to gang violence, and I can't even believe that we're having this conversation," Garry McCarthy, the police superintendent here, said in an interview. "I'm not willing to gamble that maybe they're not going to bring their guns this time."

Inside that funeral, at another church on the city's South Side, Mr. Brooks stood near Mr. Miller's coffin, recalling what had happened at the last funeral. "Ever since then," Mr. Brooks told Mr. Miller's mother, who sat before him, "my heart has been so torn."

As friends of the deceased stepped past his framed photograph to stand at a microphone, Mr. Brooks called for peace in the church, read out his own cellphone number (in case, he said, anyone needed it), and stopped one young man from launching into a rap, for fear, Mr. Brooks said later, of what new trouble that might stir.

In a corner of the church, a friend of Mr. Miller revealed text messages he had sent to her during Mr. Holman's funeral, minutes before he was shot: "dis preacher like he talkin straight to me," one of the messages read. "He talkin bout hurts and pain. I cant run from the pain cause its gone hurt me worse if I'm by myself because I gotta think about everything." In tears, she recalled how she had replied to the texts with questions, but Mr. Miller never responded. your social media marketing partner


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-7 # MidwestTom 2013-01-06 10:47
There is no mention of fathers in this article, which is the biggest cause of the growth of gangs. I know that many on this site will disagree, but the State of Illinois, because of it;s financial support of children takes away any cost for having a baby. This article , being politically correct, does not state the fact that the gang members and the killings are mostly among blacks. Chicago has torn down the giant apartment public housing projects of the 60's , and replaced them with much smaller nicer units, but the violence has little to do with the condition of housing.

Chicago birth records indicate that over 70% of the black births are to single mothers, most of whom are either living off of Illinois's generous benefits. A welfare family unit can rent an apartment for $10/month, and the state pays the rest.

We taxpayers are paying for an ever increasing uncontrolled reproduction party . That results in the streets being the home for more and more black youth. I firmly believe that the only cure for this mess is to limit child support payments to one child per unmarried mother.. The improvement is 15 years away, but it would be there.
+5 # Majikman 2013-01-06 12:04
"I firmly believe that the only cure for this mess is to limit child support payments to one child per unmarried mother.." That will fix it, by cracky. Piers Morgan hadn't gotten around to interviewing you, or he could also add "racist" to unbelievably stupid.
-3 # Rick Levy 2013-01-06 20:02
Why is it racist when the killers are members of minority groups and now white cops?
-3 # Rick Levy 2013-01-06 20:03
Correction: my comment should have read "...and not white cops?"
+8 # kelly 2013-01-06 12:05
So, are you gonna be for Planned Parenthood or against it when they distribute contraceptives and info on birth control and are you prochoice or pro life when it comes to unwanted pregnancies or pregnancies due to rape? Do you want to add to the problems or actually solve them?
+4 # MidwestTom 2013-01-06 14:38
I happen to be a big fan of planned parenthood, both the organization, and the concept in the individual family. Our nations unplanned parenting is one of the major reasons we have articles like the above.
-1 # Rick Levy 2013-01-06 19:59
I agree. Why on earth should Midwest Tom receive ANY "thumbs down" ratings for saying what needs to be said.
+4 # tishado 2013-01-06 21:00
No state in the US has benefits that are generous enough that they are the cause of inner-city problems alone.

The issue of fatherless children is not just addressed by coercively limiting babies-it is related to the lack of economic opportunity. If there were more ample opportunities for men in inner-city Chicago to get good jobs that would support a family, there would be more marriage and more family stability.

The problem is not just coercing women into having fewer children, but one of creating an overall environment where all of the problems of poverty, deindustrializa tion, violence, racism, urbanization, and whatever else is relevant are addressed at the same time. There are no simple solutions, though many individual initiatives may help.
0 # handmjones 2013-01-06 11:20
I cannot understand why one would write a column about murder contrasting the rates in various communities without actually mention the rates.
+4 # 4yourinformation 2013-01-06 12:20
Drug War and poverty and neglect of whole communities. Many people that live there probably have guns to protect themselves from others that enforce drug turf and robbers and everything else that occurs due to the total neglect of whole neighborhoods.
-1 # GF4A 2013-01-07 17:59
These are socio and economic crimes of the inner city. Crime stats from the Department of Justice report: from 1998-2008, the homicide rate for black men between the ages of 18-34 - 93% were killed by black perpetrators. 2 out of every 5 deaths are from homicide & is twice the rate for Hispanic men,15 time for whites.

Higher incidences of inter-generatio nal poverty, single parent homes, gang strongholds, lack of jobs, drug abuse & child neglect.

From an article on black-on-black crime comes this quote - FROM a Black woman:
“I refuse to buy the argument about poverty and lawlessness, even among African-America ns. Times were 1000xs worse during the Great Depression, yet there was not the rampant violence and low regard of life in the black community of that time.

Blame the lack of morals, family values that reflect babies having babies, where a woman becomes a mother at 15, a grand mother at 30, a great grandmother at 45 and a great great grandmother at 60.

Blame a lack of value on education. Blame prioities: where the line for cable at Comcast stretches out the door but the library is like a ghost town.

Blame the no-snitching “code of honor” that harbors criminals & shuns the police.

Blame a lack of pride and self respect, arrogance or attitude of "I'm bad..."

Voilence breeds violence.

A gun makes a fool into a brave person, but that gun will change 2 lives instantly.

Killing someone solves nothing.

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