Companion Post to "As Chicago's gun violence has increased, it has become more dispersed"
I illustrate this phenomenon with three maps I created showing firearm homicide and injury sites over three different long Memorial Day weekends in 2014, 2019, and 2023
In a lengthier companion post I summarize previous research and reporting on the phenomenon of concentrated violence in certain neighborhoods of Chicago. In this shorter piece I illustrate how violence is becoming more widespread across the city, coinciding with the overall heightened levels of violence. This suggests that the incentives that structure individuals’ decisions to commit acts of gun violence in some areas of the city over others have recently changed.
I chose 2014, 2019, and 2023 to depict shooting locations because these years exhibit variation in the amount of firearm violence while enabling pre-/post-pandemic comparison. See the chart below for annual Memorial Day firearm fatalities and injuries from 2014-2023. The interactive version provides exact counts.
Then, here is a map depicting the sites of shootings in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend in 2014. Orange hollow stars denote at least one firearm injury and red solid stars denote at least one firearm homicide. My map doesn’t show how many victims are involved in each incident, just where the incidents occurred. If you click on the interactive map link you can hover over the starts and see the address where an incident occurred.
Next, the 2019 map (below) is similar to 2014. Although there were more victims in 2019 due to many “mass shooting” incidents, the locations cluster in the same relative vicinities on the south and west sides as they did in 2014. As I discuss in the companion post, this is what one would expect.
In 2023, when Chicago experienced the highest level of gun violence over a long Memorial Day weekend since 2016, a different picture emerges. Shootings still cluster on the west and south sides (i.e. the violence did not relocate) and there are more incidents in those areas than during previous, lower violence weekends. However, there are also numerous incidents occurring in parts of the city (around downtown and the lakeshore) that experienced practically no Memorial Day weekend gun violence in 2019 or 2014.
I have previously argued that Memorial Day weekend shootings serve as a barometer for the level of gun violence that can be expected throughout the summer. The observed dispersal of shooting sites in Chicago in 2023 additionally suggests the incentives to commit gun violence in previously “off limits” areas have changed.
This should alarm everyone, but not because wealthier, touristy areas of Chicago are increasingly vulnerable to gun violence. Public safety is a human right that everyone deserves to enjoy. If it takes a map showing numerous shootings near Navy Pier and the University of Chicago over Memorial Day weekend to get people’s attention to the persistent violence endured by the west and south sides, so be it. We cannot settle for “re-containment” of gun violence back to the areas of cities where the incentives to commit firearm violence never lessened. We need to decrease the incentives to commit gun violence everywhere.
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