America’s third-largest city has one of the world’s best trauma care systems bar none. But that success hids a more serious concern because the scale of gun violence is still a tremendous problem for the city.
Ask any cop, physician, or EMT in Chicago about July 4 of last year, and most, if not all, will have a story to tell.
The city has a history of violence over this holiday, and police worried that the extra-long weekend in the summer of 2017 would produce exceptionally bloody results. As always they weren’t wrong.
Over the five-day weekend, 101 Chicagoans were shot; of those, 15 were slain. The holiday drew national headlines and scorn from the Trump administration and others who saw the shooting spree as emblematic of a city intractably stained by violence. Those numbers tell a gruesome story but also a cause for success, as you see the fatality score is very low 15 out of 101. So the city can produce these statistics because of success in quality trauma care.
In 2016, 771 people were killed in Chicago, its highest homicide tally since 1996 and the largest number of murder victims by volume of any U.S. city. Per capita, this wasn’t the highest rate in the nation—it ranked ninth among cities with a population of 250,000 or greater. St. Louis officially held the title of most murderous large city in the United States in that year. In 2017, Baltimore—recently declared the most dangerous in America by USA Today and the site of 343 homicides in 2017—is likely to top the FBI’s forthcoming list of most lethal American cities. Baltimore’s police chief was fired in January due to the rising crime there.
But it’s Chicago that feels like America’s murder capital: The nation’s third-largest city ended 2017 with 650 killings, more than twice the toll in larger New York City or Los Angeles. That represents an improvement over 2016’s numbers, but the sheer scale of the Chicago-style carnage remains striking.
As stated above, the something else that’s extraordinary about Chicago’s murder rate during that holiday weekend; While 15 people died, 86 were shot—but survived. They lived because the city’s first responders and emergency room staff have adapted to accommodate combat-zone conditions. Chicago boasts one of the oldest and largest urban emergency medicine networks in the world, with six certified Level 1 trauma centers within the city limits. Indeed, criminologist Arthur Lurigio of Loyola University Chicago credits the strength of this network, and recent improvements in trauma care, with the historic drop in the city’s homicide rate since its mid-1990s peak.
“I have often wondered how many homicides we’d have in Chicago if it wasn’t for the skilled physicians in our ERs,” Lurigio said. “We could very well have surpassed 700, 800, even 900 [murders] into the 2000s.”
So Chicago bleeds and dies every year but those highly skilled truma personnel for the city administration gives them caused to celebrate their success but overlook or turn a bad eye to the underlying causes of this tragedy. Looking at the areas of the city that hold those numbers a glaring reality comes front and center. The murders and gun violence comes from one major sector of Chicago. The southside and near westside of the city. Ethnic gang invested parts of the city. Though the city administration doesn’t profess this loudly, the implications are clear. “Let those people kill themselves, they are just animals”.