Chicago’s Bloody Christmas Weekend

by Jim Geraghty

Hope your holiday weekend was cheery and bright. Unfortunately, in some corners of the world, trouble continued unabated . . . 

Chicago’s Bloody Christmas

You’ve read a lot of “terrible violence in Chicago” stories, and maybe you’re feeling numb to them. But this Christmas weekend in the city was appalling:

Seventeen people have been wounded in shootings since Monday morning, including a 14-year-old girl in critical condition after a shooting in Gresham.

She was among 61 people shot since Christmas weekend began on Friday afternoon, according to data kept by the Tribune. . . . 

Eleven of the 60 people shot over the weekend died from their wounds. More than a dozen others were listed in serious or critical condition.

The city has seen eight multiple-victim shootings, including two double homicides. One was an attack in the East Chatham neighborhood that left two dead and five others wounded, and an attack in the Austin neighborhood left two dead.

Much of the violence happened in areas “with historical gang conflicts on the south and west side of Chicago,” said Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department. He also referenced the department’s “strategic subject list,” which is generated daily from a computerized algorithm and assigns a score from 1 to 500 based on such factors as a person’s arrests and the activities of his associates. Those people with a score in the upper 200s or higher are considered in danger of being shot or of shooting someone else.

“Ninety percent of those fatally wounded had gang affiliations, criminal histories and were pre-identified by the department’s strategic subject algorithm as being a potential suspect or victim of gun violence,” Guglielmi said Monday.

An algorithm to predict shooting victims and shooters — how innovative, right out of Person of Interest! Of course, it’s hard to ignore that the algorithm hasn’t done much to reduce the rate of shootings. This site with an off-color name counts 785 homicides in Chicago last year, 705 fatally shot, 4,330 people shot. All of them are up considerably from last year: 509 homicides, 447 fatally shot, 2,996 shot.

For all of our complaining, every now and then the national media notices. The New York Times did a lengthy, in-depth piece in June — albeit one that mentioned Mayor Rahm Emanuel exactly once. Maybe there’s a hesitation to spotlight the ugly side of Chicago, or Emanuel’s tenure, or the city’s legendarily heavily Democratic leadership over the past century, or Obama’s hometown. Maybe it’s the glaring evidence that having really strict gun-control laws has had little effect on gang violence. In August, the state passed a law toughening penalties on anyone without a gun-owner identification card who brings a gun into the state of Illinois to sell. So far, there’s not much sign that that new law is having much effect, either.

The problems of Chicago’s violent neighborhoods — poverty, lack of education, lack of opportunity, family breakdown, drug abuse and addiction — exist to varying degrees in every other big city in America as well. So why is the gang violence in Chicago so much worse?

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