Chicago: Gangs and guns rule the streets
“The deadliest month in two decades. More homicides this year than in New York and Los Angeles combined.” It’s difficult to convey the magnitude and horror of the violence gripping Chicago, said The Washington Post in an editorial. Our country’s third-largest city has already had 522 homicides this year—more than in the whole of 2015. More than 3,000 people have been shot. The majority of the shootings have occurred in gang-dominated areas on the South and West sides, and almost all the victims and perpetrators are young black males. But innocent bystanders are often caught up in the crossfire, said Monica Davey in The New York Times. Among the victims this summer were a 6-year-old girl wounded by a stray bullet outside her home, and a young mother shot dead “while pushing a baby stroller.” As gunfire echoes in the streets, Chicagoans are “grasping for explanations.”
Most of the violence is the result of “an intractable gang problem,” said Jeremy Gorner and Peter Nickeas in the Chicago Tribune. Groups that used to be “highly structured and hierarchical” have fractured into smaller, less disciplined factions. Turf battles are now fought over individual blocks rather than whole neighborhoods; fueled by social media, petty disagreements and personal disputes “quickly turn violent.” Meanwhile, the police can no longer do their jobs, said Heather Mac Donald in the New York Post. With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, officers are often “surrounded by hostile, jeering crowds” and accused of racism for making stops and arrests. Every confrontation is filmed by onlookers, eager to create a viral video of police wrongdoing. Not surprisingly, officers are drastically reducing their on-street presence—giving gangbangers free rein.
Violence in Chicago “has become an epidemic,” said Dahleen Glanton in the Chicago Tribune. So why isn’t it treated as one? When the heroin epidemic began affecting white suburban kids, lawmakers jumped into action, expanding treatment programs and changing laws to punish the dealers rather than the users. A similar approach is needed for the black youths caught up in Chicago’s gang violence. It may be too late to change those already enmeshed in gang life; instead, we need to provide funding, volunteers, and mentors to programs that help young males stay out of trouble and give them hope. “Early intervention is the key”—and our underfunded, understaffed public schools “can’t do it alone.”
■■58% of Americans approve of Obama’s performance as president—a 13 percent increase since December and his best rating since July 2009. Washington Post/ABC News
■■51% of Americans disapprove of the Affordable Care Act, while 44% support the health-care law. 29% of Americans say the ACA has hurt them and their families, while 18% say it has helped their families. 51% say the law “had no effect” on them. Gallup