Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Gunshots in Chicago

After awhile you can tell right away the difference between fireworks and gunshots.  Gunshots have a sharp, short and crisp sound. When there are more than one, the sound is of uniform loudness from one to the next but at a disjointed metre. Fireworks usually happen in a steadier sequence, but with a less clean finish and a not as uniform loudness from one to the next.  

Fireworks are popular in my neighborhood. For whatever reason, the adult males have a fascination with them. They set them off year-round, and on July 4th and the month leading up to it, they’re nearly constant. From dusk to midnight on the 3rd and the 4th I have a 360 degree personal show. They buy the expensive ones – the guy down the block does a display that would make a medium-sized municipality proud. Police don’t bother with it.  Our poor dog was a nervous wreck each year from June through the 4th, until she went nearly deaf in her last couple of years. The deafness was a blessing in a way; she slept right through it.

Gunshots aren’t nearly as common, but we’ve been hearing them occasionally lately, right up close.  I mentally count them as they sound – bang. bang bang. bang bang. bang.  When I’m sure they’ve stopped, I look out the window to see if I can get the make, color and model of any vehicle speeding away to report it to the 911 operator along with the number of shots. The police show up almost immediately, but I’ve never seen them catch anyone. They check around for people down, property damage, and finally when they’ve found neither, they collect spent shells.  

This is my little slice of a bigger problem in Chicago. I live in a pretty good neighborhood, but it’s within a mile or two of a couple of gang hotspots. The gunshots usually happen late at night and they don’t seem to be aiming for anyone, so I’m not very concerned for my personal safety.  

I’m lucky. I live right here in a city where thousands of people have to live in fear every day. I was thinking about this the other day after reading Denise Velez’s excellent diary at the GOS, The Fear of Young Black Men.…

503 People killed by guns in Chicago last year. As gun violence decreases in other major cities, Chicago is experiencing a spike. Overall, Chicago is down, too. Twenty years ago we had twice as many as last year and it wasn’t major news; of course this was in the time of large public housing projects and much of it happened within those confines and the rest of us didn’t pay as much attention.

There was a report on NPR’s Morning Edition this morning about this today.  It can be found here:…

Chicago has the same problems as other big cities. Income and educational disparities across large regions, lack of employment opportunities, etc. So why here?  People have been trying to answer this question lately.  Even after public housing projects are mostly closed, the gun violence is still in very specific local areas. The criminologist that speaks on the NPR report says that stats show that for people not in gang who do not have a weapon or access to a weapon, the chances of getting shot are still extremely low. Even in those neighborhoods where shootings are common. So part of the answer has to be giving kids better options than joining gangs.

Liberal ideals like better education and employment opportunities must be a part of the solution. Better policing is important too, and for the first time I’ve been hearing positive signs. My wife and I have become active in the community, attending community policing meetings and meeting with our alderman and the police commander for our district.  One thing I’ve been hearing lately is how treating everyone as a suspect makes people very unlikely to cooperate with police when a crime has been committed. Seems simple enough, but until recently I had never heard it mentioned.

Let’s hope there will be real progress.

Back on my block, I learned from neighbors that a house down the block has been a problem for more than ten years. Two males in their thirties live there sometimes, and they have a long list of arrests including felony convictions. Nice house, kept up well enough. I wondered why the woman lets them stay there and later found out that she has a bit of a record herself.  When they’re around, apparently the rival gang expresses their displeasure at their presence by driving down the block and firing off shots. A couple of months ago the police raided the house and found more than $100,000 in stolen merchandise, much of it from robberies in the immediate surrounding area. They were arrested and their picturs were published and I immediately recognized them. I had seen them around the neighborhood sometimes and said hello. Apparently they’re out again on bail, and I won’t be surprised if I hear more gunshots in the future.


  1. fogiv

    …and you’re right:  the information there was so simple, and yet so hopeful.  i’m coming to chicago this june, and it’ll be my first time (outside of o’hare, where i’ve been a zillion times).  i’m sooo looking forward to wrigley.

  2. kirbybruno

    I lived in Chicago from about 1990 until 2003 (tiny chunk of that in MI). It is the best city in the world, IMO, but it is like 2 different cities and depending on what Chicago you live in that opinion may very. I lived lakeview, Addison and Broadway. The heart of the gay community, 2 blocks from Wrigley Field, 1 block from Lake Michigan, it was great! I was very lucky because I was a 2 income no kid household so we could afford the ridiculous rent on a 2 bedroom apartment.

    In 2000 and 2001 I had 2 kids, and no longer fit in or could afford the apartment because I wanted to stay home with them. We moved to the south side, Archer and 42nd, to a beautiful 5 bedroom home that was almost 100 years old. We were only the third owners, it was in great shape and our mortgage was about half of what our rent was on the north side. It is a different world, as most neighborhoods are, but sadly it was not a place I felt comfortable raising my family. We were a block from a high school and every afternoon I would make sure I brought the kids indoors because inevitable there would be some altercation. I heard gun shots on occasion too, but not nearly what you describe, Via Chicago. The schools weren’t the best, and the testing into schools farther away did not appeal to me.  

    After less than 2 years we ending up selling and moving out to the burbs to the town I grew up in. There is so much I miss and regret, especially every time we visit, which is often since my brother an his family lives there. Sometimes I feel guilty for fleeing. Chicago is so segregated it is literally like 2 different cities, but I don’t know what the answer is. I do think more people need to get involved, like you are, I think that is awesome.

    Anyway, sorry for all the randomness, thanks for listening, and thanks for this. It made me think!

  3. Miep

    I expect kids join gangs for a variety of reasons, many of which likely boil down to poverty and in so many cases well-justified frustration about racism.

    I hear gunshots in my neighborhood now and then, and yes, one learns to distinguish them from fireworks and automotive backfires. Occasionally somebody shoots his wife. Awhile back a Vietnam vet down the street shot himself because he was diagnosed with cancer and was afraid of the pain. Nice guy, used to come by my yard and sweet talk my dogs.

    A few years ago somebody drove down my street and shot something up a few houses down. Police came, they wandered around for some time, searching the ground.

    Mostly it’s pretty quiet though, in my working class, ethnically mixed neighborhood. I’m glad I don’t live in a big city anymore. The thing I miss most is the bus system.

  4. Family reunion, I spent a day with a cousin who lived on 225th and Throop, which I was surprised to learn is actually pronounced Troop.  Needless to say that’s the southside that people are talking about when they say southside.  I went site seeing what sites might be down there and I never felt uncomfortable riding around the southside of Chicago.

    Until I got home and my cousin put a post of “man down” with a crime scene that I recognized as around his corner.

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