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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chicago Rocked By Spate Of Shootings

(voteprime/Flickr)

(voteprime/Flickr)

Five people were shot last night in an uptown Chicago neighborhood

The shootings took place in broad daylight outside a church during prayer service, ironically along a so-called safe passage route.

One victim, shot in the head, remains in critical condition. The others are all stable.

The shootings come on the heels of a weekend shooting spree that killed one and left another eight injured, including a seven-year-old, in the city’s south, west and southwest.

The newest spate of violence underscores a sad statistic: Chicago had more homicides last year than any city in the nation.

Its per capita murder rate is more than triple that of New York City and double that of Los Angeles.

Guest

Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson.

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:

I'm Meghna Chakrabarti, in for Robin Young. It's HERE AND NOW. Coming up, we'll speak with the last surviving speaker of the 1963 March on Washington.

HOBSON: But first to more violence in the nation's third-largest city, five people shot last night in the Uptown Neighborhood of Chicago. It happened along a so-called safe passage route, outside a church. One victim shot in the head remains in critical condition, the others all stable. And those shootings come on the heels of a weekend shooting spree that killed one and left another eight injured, including a seven-year-old.

Robert Wildeboer covers criminal and legal affairs for WBEZ in Chicago, and he joins us now. Welcome.

ROBERT WILDEBOER: Thanks.

CHAKRABARTI: So Robert, another very violent weekend in Chicago. It's been a violent summer, but last night's shooting alone, five people shot in the Uptown Neighborhood and then more shootings after that.

WILDEBOER: Yeah, and we're used to this in Chicago, of course, these stories continue to be told, and there's been a lot of them in the last year. Last year was a particularly violent year when it came to murders. We had about 500 in Chicago last year, 506 to be exact, whereas in the last 10 years we've been averaging more like 450 murders.

But this year we're actually down, and our police chief here, Gary McCarthy, likes to talk about how right now we're on track to have the fewest murders since 1965. As of the end of July, we'd had 231 murders in the city of Chicago. But when you compare that to New York, which is three times as large, and they are around 200 murders themselves. So Chicago still has a real problem with gun violence.

HOBSON: And last night's shooting was in a safe passage route. Tell us what that means and what that means for the city's strategy going forward.

WILDEBOER: Well, it's really interesting. The city of Chicago is closing about 50 schools, has closed them, and so what it means is kids are, you know, instead of going three blocks to the one school, they're having to go to eight blocks to another school. And most of these schools are in poor, African-American neighborhoods, and a lot of the parents have been worried about well, you know, now my kid has to cross more gang boundaries, or it's, you know, a very dangerous walk to school.

And so the city has started this Safe Passage Program, which is going to be hiring folks, just adults to be standing along these designated routes. It's coordinated with the police department. Every time there's a murder on one of these safe passage routes, it's become kind of this notable thing in the last few weeks, and a lot of incidents of violence are happening on these safe passage routes.

HOBSON: So you mentioned that the number of murders is down, and down significantly, this year. What has the city done to make that happen?

WILDEBOER: Well, I think one of the big things the city has done is put more police on the street using overtime money and particularly focusing on crime hotspot areas, and this is something that was done in New York City, as well. Our police chief here, Gary McCarthy, was in the New York City Police Department, and I think he was brought to Chicago to basically try and replicate the success New York City had in bringing down the homicide numbers.

Of course in the early '90s, New York had like 2,250 murders a year, and now they're down to like 400 murders a year so an 80 percent decrease in the murder rate, and that's obviously what city leaders here would like to have, as well.

HOBSON: And we should mention as you said, Chicago had, what, 506 murders last year, which would be higher than New York, which is a much larger city.

WILDEBOER: Yeah, New York is three times as large, and we're having more murders.

HOBSON: So despite the fact that the murders are down, it is still the top story today in the Chicago Tribune. There was blood everywhere, it said.

WILDEBOER: Yeah, I mean, it's still a huge problem, right. We're still talking about 500 people being murdered, 400 - in a good year 400 people being murdered in our city, which, you know, compare that to any other first-world nation is ridiculous. In Chicago we have 2.6 million people and 500 murders, 400 murders in a good year.

In Toronto, just a few hours away, 2.3 million people, essentially the same population, they have 60 murders a year.

HOBSON: Wow.

WILDEBOER: So we've solved our problem to some degree, but we have a long ways to go.

HOBSON: Robert Wildeboer covers criminal and legal affairs for WBEZ in Chicago. Robert, thanks so much.

WILDEBOER: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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