Chicago is well-known for its violence and gang activity. In the 1980s, the homicide rate of the city began to climb quickly as gangs selling drugs became more widespread. At its peak in 1992, 943 people were killed, most as the result of gang activity related to drugs that were being sold on the street.
A Turning Point
Homicides continued to remain high until 1997, when gang leader, Larry Hoover, was convicted of distribution while in prison. He was relocated to a maximum security prison in Colorado, limiting his contact with gang members.
The Homicide Rate Decline
The homicide rate steadily declined over the years as statistics helped law enforcement to target areas of the city with the highest homicide rates and increase patrols. Chicago also implemented strict gun control laws in order to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands and ending up on the street. These moves seemed to work and in 2014, Chicago’s homicide rate dropped to 415 homicides, the lowest since before the drug wars of the 1990s.
Homicides Increasing Again
The Chicago of the 1980s and 90s is rearing its ugly head once more after a steady decline over the years, after Hoover’s relocation and the implementation of new gun control laws. Gang activity is once again increasing in the city. By September of this year, over 500 homicides had taken place, more than in the entire year prior. In fact, nationwide, the homicide rate has jumped 13 percent this year, with half of the homicide rate increase coming directly from the spike in Chicago.
Details of Chicago’s Current Homicides
A closer look at the homicide rate increase reveals some alarming trends:
- Most homicides are gang related.
- Drugs are not the reason for most of the homicides.
- There are more gangs consisting of younger members.
- The gangs are not structured.
- Several gangs exist in the same territory.
Gangs Lack Organization
Since the dismantling of the larger, organized gangs in the 90s, there isn’t a single leader to control the factions. These gangs are much smaller with younger, inexperienced members. Although there is a drug problem related to a gang on the west side of Chicago, only a small number of homicides can be attributed to that specific gang.
Gang Activity Homicides
Most homicides are now taking place as a result of gang-related offenses and retaliation, fueling many of the feuds that are resulting in homicides. Since these gangs are not organized, they don’t have a governing member to keep members under control. This is causing a more chaotic environment, with gang members taking things into their own hands, and committing homicide in the heat of the moment.
New Measures to Curtail Gun-Related Homicide
Strict gun control measures seemed to have had a positive impact on the homicide rates of Chicago, until this recent increase in homicides. This has led to the implementation of new laws, restricting firearm possession. The most recent law to be passed, targets guns entering the state of Illinois. This law makes it a felony to bring guns into the state without proper state documentation to own them and imposes steep penalties for repeat offenders. Only time will tell if the newest measure to prevent homicides will be effective in curtailing the spike in this year’s homicides.