So much violence, so few answers

I am frustrated and maybe you can help.

I hope you can.

When I first read the news accounts of six-year-old Aliyah Shell’s death, it sadly seemed like so many other news stories.

A child killed by a random bullet. Police say it may be gang-related. Family, neighbors, and many others are heart-broken and outraged.

Same story, again.

Next I saw Superintendent Garry McCarthy, quoted at a news conference saying that the gun violence which fatally swallowed Aliyah Shell and 9 others and injured 39 others over the weekend, was largely the result of gang violence.

And gangs have splintered and sprawled, he said, according to a story in the Sun-Times, making it more difficult to track them. Still, he said police know that gangs have had a greater role in the mayhem, claiming as much as 80 percent of the firearm violence in the city.

What I would like to know is what is exactly going on with these gangs. I remember folks from CeaseFire saying a while ago that some of the violence nowadays comes from gang wannabes, or just dumb tough kids, which makes it even more chaotic.

I would like to know why gangs live on in here despite years of police crackdowns. What is missing here? Not long ago I figured out that possibly as much as $100 million comes into Chicago yearly to deal with youth violence.

Tell me if this money is making a difference. Tell me if it goes off in different directions or there’s a broad strategy in place. Tell how much actually gets spent.

And what feeds the gangs’ existence?

Is it the poverty that appears deeper and more punishing today in many poor black and Latino communities?

Is it the sea of guns? If so, tell me about these guns. Where do they come from? What kind of guns are they? Tell me about the life of a gun so I can see the toll it takes.

Is the drugs? If so, tell me how they are marketed and who sells them and what happens the dealers. Let me see the lines that connect the drug links here.

I see from the Tribune that homicides are up 42 percent so far this year, and nonfatal shootings are up, too, 38 percent. I wonder about people who have been shot multiple times because we know that’s a reality too.  How many carry such wounds, both physical and emotional?

Tell me where the violence reigns. What streets? What police beats? Tell me who are the people the police arrest.

Tell me about violence’s long lingering impact on the streets where it happened, on the victims and the families it touched and  on the  emergency crews, the police, the court workers and all who regularly face it.

Take me to the county jail or state prison or wherever I can hear from those who are the major players in this terrible tragedy.

Tell me about the latest of those who have been paralyzed or disabled from the violence. I’ve heard that these numbers have been growing lately.

Help me see the larger picture.

Tell me what is happening in this broad human drama so I can see where differences might be made.

Help me to spread the word that we don’t want the same story with few questions asked and few answers offered.

So, please pass the word that we have to know more.

If you work for a non-profit agency, or you are a journalist, or you simply care about what’s happening, talk to me. Let’s change the story.

We need to understand so we don’t hear the same story again and again this summer.

Talk to me. And most importantly, talk to the news media.

photo by Carlos Javier Ortiz


  • Marcie

    March 28, 2012 at 3:06 am

    Steve, I don’t have any answers for you. However, I am willing to help share the stories and try to get some answers.

  • Steve Sewall

    August 13, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    “An End to Gangs and Drugs in Chicago”

    The solution ‘begins with the knowledge that gangs/drugs isn’t just a massive criminal justice and public health problem.

    It’s also a massive communication problem.

    A citywide breakdown of it. Between Chicagoans and City Hall. Between young people and adults.

    Occurring, much of it, in Chicago’s media: public, community, online, mainstream. . . .

    Chicago’s media, as the city’s public communications system, are as indispensable to freeing Chicago from gangs and drugs as its criminal justice and public health systems. . . .

    Chicago’s media can help Chicagoans and City Hall change the culture of youth violence in Chicago from one of youth/adult estrangement to one of youth/adult cooperation. . . .

    To free itself from gangs and drugs, will Chicago transform itself from a 20th century I Will city to a 21st century We Will city?