Monday, July 7, 2014

What should we think about safety?

We’re not safer. We’re just crummier shots.”

That was the  observation I heard from a Jewel bagboy when, while bagging some grocery items I was buying, he took a glimpse of the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times I purchased.

 THAT FRONT PAGE  gave us the headline “Under The Gun,” and teased a story about how the number of people killed in Chicago this year thus far is less than what it was last year.


 The number of shooting incidents that have occurred this year compared to last is on the rise.

 Specifically, 5 percent fewer people killed but 8 percent more incidents involving gunfire, according to the Sun-Times for the first six months of 2014 compared to the first half of 2013 – which was a way-above-average year.

 ONE IN WHICH people would have to look back into Chicago history to find a period that was more violent than ’13 was for the Second City.

 Now I’m not about to take seriously the views of a guy who managed to avoid crushing my grocery items while putting them into plastic bags. I’m well aware that he was trying to make a joke while engaging in some small talk to keep himself from being bored.

 He also speculated about how wonderful Jose Abreu was for the Chicago White Sox this year. Is he a top-notch sports commentator?

 Besides, a part of me wanted to retort as a gag that perhaps that the statistical combination  was evidence of the advancement of medical techniques – we’re saving more lives of gunshot victims.

 THE REALITY IS more a matter of  the fact that there are certain parts of  Chicago that have become so violent – and so isolated from the rest of the city that it is way too easy to ignore what happens there.

 While also looking at the fact that there are certain neighborhoods in Chicago where violence, homicide and crime in general is so low that some of us want to believe all the crime stats must be some sort of lie!

 Which is a shame because, in some ways, Chicago is no better or stronger than its weakest, most violent neighborhoods,

 We can brag about the Gold Coast (although my memory of a quarter-century of news stories I wrote about includes people who were shot and killed there too) and try to pretend that Englewood is an alien land.

 BUT THAT KIND of  rhetoric just makes us all seem foolish. Besides, even if the number of people killed is on the decline, there’s still the reality that even one homicide is one too many.

 And to the people directly impacted by the list of the deceased, that one is all that matters. Too many families get devastated, then forgotten about in the mess of murder statistics that are being compiled.

 The sad part is that just the other day, I stumbled across some four-decade-old reruns of “Good Times,” the show where Jimmie Walker tried to become the clown prince of the Chicago ghetto and public housing.

 The episodes I saw were the two-part tale of where Walker’s “J.J.” character was shot by a streetgang member who was trying to recruit/pressure him into joining the “gang.”

 FOR A COMEDY television series, it was way too real. For J.J.’s gunman, gang leader “Mad Dog” wound up getting probation for the shooting because there was no space available to hold him either at the youth home in St. Charles or at the Cook County Jail.

 Those are a set of circumstances that were all too real in 1970s Chicago, and remain true today. How many “Mad Dogs” (his real name was supposed to be “Cleon”) are being produced by the rising numbers of shootings occurring in Chicago?

And isn’t that a more significant problem than however many homicides are occurring? You want numbers, check out 11, 25 and .312 – the home run total, runs batted in and batting average for Abreu during the month of June.

 They’re less depressing to think about.


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