HANDFUL OF POCKETS

Posted in Rants on April 3rd, 2016 by Ed

Statistically, I live in an extremely dangerous city. Yet I spend exactly none of my time worrying about being a victim of crime. Part of that is my attitude; generally I believe that if a lightning bolt is going to hit you there isn't much you can do about it. Sure, you wouldn't want to increase your chances of being struck by running around an open field waving a lightning rod during a thunderstorm. But there's only so much you can do. Either they've got your name on them or they don't.

Aside from taking reasonable precautions, the other reason never to worry about it is that crime in the city is heavily ghettoized. This calendar year promises to break all previous records for shootings and gun-related murders in Chicago, but it doesn't take complex geospatial analysis to see the patterns when they're mapped out.

shootings april1

This quote is telling: "Police said the disturbing rise in violence is driven by gangs and mostly contained to a handful of pockets on the city's South and West sides."

Oh, OK then. As long as the people shooting each other are all in the same place.

That quote is accurate but belies the fact that this is not a natural disaster. The police, and most Chicagoans, talk about it like it just happened this way or, among the Trump crowd, is an artifact of race in the most violent areas. The reality is that the police adopted a strategy of confinement, not crime prevention or community service. Just make sure that the borders of "Chiraq" don't extend east of Western Ave. or north of Pershing and everyone can call that a win. If the parts of the city with money are safe, or have what would be considered a normal level of crime for a major city, the police and city leaders don't much worry about the other parts. The CPD has for the last few years adopted a strategy in areas like Austin and South Shore of, "Just call us when we need to come pick up the bodies."

It's nearly impossible to construct an explanation that doesn't involve racism. There's no getting around the fact that the shitty neighborhoods are black and the white and Hispanic parts of the city are safer and more actively policed. The police cite "gang problems" as if white and Hispanic people don't have gangs or drugs. That's not to say that with just a little more effort the police could equalize crime rates everywhere in the city. The problem is that nobody's even trying.

To listen to the national news talk about Chicago you'd think it's Sarajevo in the 90s and we all have to run from building to building in a low, serpentine manner to arrive at the office alive. That isn't reality for most of us. But for some people it is, and we're all uncomfortably satisfied with that.