Chicago Gangs and Violence: Beyond Downtown


Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Urban Youth International Journalism Program in partnership with Paul Robeson High School in the Englewood neighborhood.

The UYIJP is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation.

It feels to me that Chicago really lived up to its nickname this year, “Chiraq Drillinois.” The question I ask is where and when will a change come? Chicago was named the “Murder Capital of the United States” by Sky News and other international media. Gang shootings across the city have really put fear in Chicagoans and it feels like we are not safe anywhere. It is really sucking the fun and life out of Chicago.

Chicago has always had gangs and violence. In the 1920s, we had Al Capone, who was born in New York and moved to Chicago at the age of 20, according to the web site of the Chicago History Museum. Capone was the leader of the “Chicago Outfit,” also known as “Capones.” He was into smuggling and bootlegging liquor but he is most famous for his role in the 1929 Valentine Day Massacre.

In the 1960s and 1970s, gangs like the Gangster Disciples, Black Disciples Nation and Black P. Stone Nation took over the parts of Chicago. But after the death and incarceration of many high ranking gang members, the organization of the gangs has fallen apart. With no organization and no order, the gang members are left to do for themselves. Now it’s kind of hard to keep the city sane with gang members going against each other.

Guns are a big part of the problem. Many of the people murdered or shot in Chicago are children and that is outrageous. “Chicago has no civilian gun ranges and a ban on both assault rifles and high capacity magazines but yet, between the years of 2001 thru 2012, the police have recovered more than 50,000 guns,” according to the Blog Colorlines. That’s more than half of all the guns that came from the entire state of Illinois.

The fact that young people are the center of this epidemic is ridiculous. I wanted to get the opinion of the people who live in Chicago and have seen the violence or have been the victim of Chicago violence themselves. So I asked teachers, students, neighbors, police, even children. The answers I got really made me think it’s really time for a change in the city of Chicago. Adrianna Wilson, 4, said, “I don’t like going outside sometimes because they shoot around my house and I got asthma I can’t run fast.”

No child should run from bullets and not enjoy their summer because of violence in the city. I wanted to get the point of view of an adult someone who deals with this on a daily basis. So I asked the officers in my school what’s their opinion on the violence. Officer Pitman said, “Working in this field for years I’ve seen things that will never leave my mind and if the murder affects the city the way it affected me, then maybe than something will change.”

I also interviewed Amber Johnson, 18, a resident of Chicago, who said, “I feel Chicago violence is getting outrageous because of the young people in our generation.”
This led me back to the question I asked earlier: Where and when will a change come? The day this question is answered or the day the problem is solved is the day Chicago will finally have peace beyond downtown. When we help ourselves, maybe then we can help others but only the people in Chicago can change the problem that happening in our city.

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