Where are you most likely to get shot in Chicago?

Where are you most likely to get shot in Chicago?

Nearly 1 of every 900 Chicagoans was shot last year, and 1 in 5,000 killed by gunshot. Where was the greatest risk? The Austin neighborhood reported the most fatal shootings as well as the most shootings overall, with 1 shooting for every 414 residents

Chicagoans reported more homicides than residents of any other U.S. city in 2023 and police data shows 9 in every 10 shootings occurred in South and West side communities.

The worst neighborhood for both total shootings and deadly shootings? The birthplace of Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson: Austin.

While shootings and fatal shootings were not records for Chicago in 2023, what did set a record was the arrest rate – and not a good record. Shooting arrests hit a record low: just shy of 4%.

Tio Hardiman, the founder and executive director of the non-profit Violence Interrupters Inc., said the findings weren’t a surprise. After two decades of running an organization designed to help high-risk youths mediate conflict in Austin, he said the reason is simple: “Gun violence has become a culture.”

“I grew up around gun violence on the South Side of Chicago between the projects of Avalon Park and the Henry Horner Homes,” Hardiman said. “I saw all these young brothers losing their lives in situations that could have easily been avoided or mediated.”

“I started organizing about 20 years ago because I got tired of seeing all the violence taking place with the young people in my community. That’s why I created the Violence Interrupters,” Hardiman said. “We help people move forward in their lives and show them they don’t have to be a part of gun violence culture.”

There is some good news: Chicago had 16% fewer shootings last year than in 2022 and one-third fewer than in 2021, which hit a peak of 4,418.

Chicagoans reported 2,950 shooting victims and 558 shooting fatalities last year. The city reported an additional 60 non-shooting homicides.

Citywide, your chances of being shot in Chicago during 2023 were about 1 in 900. In 2021, that was about 1 in 600.

“Understand, hurt people hurt other people. When it comes to gun violence, whole communities in Chicago have been traumatized and for many the violence has become the norm,” Hardiman said.

“The violence is spreading because this younger segment of the population thinks it’s the only way out for them. They’re willing to go all the way and hurt you, shoot you, kill you, just to secure some type of recognition or credibility in their neighborhood.”

“Around 13-14 is when a lot of young guys begin to make their bones,” Hardiman said. “But they haven't even matured mentally at that point so hurting somebody else doesn’t even really cross their minds. It’s just an everyday thing in the ghetto.”

“I look at violence like an infectious disease,” Hardiman said. “It transfers from one person to another so that’s why we try to detect, then interrupt the transmission.”

Citywide, about 1 in every 5,000 Chicagoans was killed in a shooting in 2023. In 2021 that rate was 1 in 3,600.

But while shootings dropped overall, the city arrest rate for shootings also fell to its lowest level in 23 years.

Chicago police made an arrest in just shy of 4% of shooting incidents reported last year, the fewest since the city started recording the data in 2001. Officers were also only able to catch 1-in-4 homicide offenders, another record-low for the city.

“The arrest rate for shootings has always been low because it only takes two or three seconds to actually shoot and kill somebody. And a lot of people won’t talk about it either,” Hardiman said. “They may get shot but they're not gonna talk about who shot them because that’s part of the culture, too.”

“We don’t even ask for names. We stay in our lane and try our best to stop the shootings on the front end with mediation and support, so nobody goes to jail or to the cemetery,” Hardiman said. “That’s why we work on changing the thinking. Once we can educate people and help them overcome their own personal traumas, then we can make some real progress.”

Chicago’s record-low arrest rates for gun violence did not help the problem. Among Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods, 17 reported more shooting victims last year than in 2022. More than half of those communities were on the South Side.

Of the 23 neighborhoods with more fatal shootings last year than during 2022, 18 were on the South Side.

Overall, 6 in every 10 Chicago shootings were in South Side communities in 2023. The West Side reported the second most, with 3 of every 10.

“Gun violence has become a culture. It’s past being a fad,” Hardiman said. “It’s traumatic when a young person loses a friend or a loved one to gun violence. And if people don’t have professional support around them, to help them with the healing process, then they end up getting stuck in their feelings. They get stuck and become numb.”

The Chicago Violence Reduction Dashboard shows the most common age of shooting victims was between 20 and 29 years old and 75% of the victims were Black. White Hispanics made up the second-largest victim demographic at 19%.

Chicago led the nation in homicides from 2012 through 2023, reporting more cases than any other major U.S. city. Chicagoans also reported more mass shootings than residents in any other city during the past decade – roughly one every 11 days.

While Mayor Johnson has shifted his public safety plan towards addressing crime prevention with a long-term, holistic approach, the ongoing police officer shortage Johnson has aggravated has hampered the city’s current chances of preventing more shootings.

Johnson’s 2024 budget eliminated 833 police positions, compounding the 614 positions eliminated by former Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Officers made 115 fewer shooting arrests last year than when sworn police ranks were at their peak in 2007.

According to a Lincoln Poll in January, 2 of every 3 voters somewhat or strongly disapproved of Johnson’s handling of crime.

“We need all-hands-on-deck and if we work together, I believe we can achieve some serious reductions in gun violence in Chicago,” Hardiman said. “Homicides were down 13% in 2023. In 2024, I think we should have a goal of reducing homicides by 25%.”

“Then we can help more of these young guys become productive members of society and avoid getting caught up in this vicious cycle of violence.”

Hardiman said after decades working in violence prevention, he believes 30% of the money being raised for gun-violence prevention should go to the families and people shot and killed. He believes the city has a responsibility to help reduce the violence and support those most harmed by it.

Chicagoans shouldn’t be forced to choose between having fewer police officers on the streets and reducing social services to support the city’s at-risk residents. Instead, city leaders should balance short- and long-term strategies to target the violence plaguing Chicago’s most vulnerable communities.

Addressing gun violence starts with reducing the city’s police officer shortage, putting more officers on local beats and ensuring witness protection so police are able to obtain vital information needed to identify and pursue criminal actors. Longer-term solutions cannot work unless today’s gun violence is addressed and Chicagoans stop living in fear.

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