Greg Hinz at Crain's has an interesting column today on Chicago's gun violence scourge. Hinz asks U of C researchers and other experts why Chicago leads New York and L.A. in homicides? The answer he comes up with sounds simple and obvious -- the relative abundance of firearms here compared with the two coastal cities -- but it isn't. The U of C people tell him, "it's complicated" (I agree) and that they're still looking at it.
For one thing, it doesn't explain a 40% jump in gun violence last year on the heels of Rahm Emanuel's election as mayor. I don't have any explanation for that either, but the question is certainly worth asking. A year later, Rahm and Chief McCarthy are cynically high-five-ing the slight decrease in the homicide rate for the first 6-months of 2013 -- "only" 1,000 shootings so far. Although if last weekend is any indication, the death toll could be rising again.
What neither Hinz nor the experts he questions consider as possible explanations, are the higher neighborhood concentrations of poverty in racially isolated neighborhoods, the city's higher unemployment rate, especially for young people, the mayor's devastating budget cuts in education and social services and the city's policy-driven, ever-widening gap between rich and poor.
Yes, the easy availability of guns is a major factor, especially with bordering Tea-Party led, gun-crazy states like Indiana and Wisconsin nearby, making Chicago's gun-control laws useless.
The greatest fear in the community these days, is that Rahm's closing of some 50 schools, mainly in the black communities on the south and west sides, will drive those numbers even higher as tens off thousands of children are forced to cross rival gang boundaries on the often long trek to receiving schools.
Hinz and the experts he surveys, all tend to look at it mainly as a policing problem. But new deployments of cops and mass arrests of young black and Latino suspected gang members have done little more than fill the already overcrowded prisons, creating even more devastation for families of both the suspected shooters, their victims and communities in which they live.
I hope that the U of C researchers come up with better data and analysis than that which Hinz is presently receiving.