Rising crime is becoming a way of life for Chicago residents.
On Sunday night in Chicago’s world-famous Loop, theatre patrons there to see a Broadway production of Moulin Rouge were instead treated to another tragic episode in the ongoing violent crime drama that has come to define the Windy City over the past two years.
“On Sunday night, happy patrons were seated at the James M. Nederlander Theatre in Chicago’s Loop waiting for the start of a touring production of the Broadway musical ‘Moulin Rouge’, wrote the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board on Monday. “The theatre, say some who were there, was nicely filled. But just moments before the scheduled curtain time, an announcement was made from the stage that the show had been cancelled.”
“The reason,” the Editorial Board continued grimly, as if Chicagoans reading the article didn’t know already, “was a nearby shooting.”
According to Chicago Police and the Tribune- both of which sound as if they are describing the big, climactic shoot-out scene at the end of an old Wild West movie- the, “victims of a robbery opened fire on the perpetrators. But they instead hit two people whom the police called ‘unintended targets,’ which is code for being unfortunate enough to be standing in the alley outside the Chicago Theatre.”
“Both were taken to hospitals in (thankfully) fair condition,” the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board continued before adding in an almost petulant tone: “One of them was a doctor, for goodness sake, and one of them, several social media accounts say, was connected to ‘Moulin Rouge’.”
Leaving aside the obvious questions about reporting done at the Chicago Tribune- “several social media accounts say,” is hardly something a hard-hitting journalist would source, to say nothing of reporting on a theatre that, “say some who were there, was nicely filled,”- the whole premise seems rather off.
Continuing in the same rather vague, tone-deaf manner, the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board sounded more than a bit out-of-touch in grousing about the cancellation of a theatre production in a city where over 800 people were the victims of homicide last year. Among the many victims of violence in Chicago was 8-year-old Melissa Ortega, who was shot and killed last January at the intersection of 26th Street and Pulaski Road in the Little Village community as she crossed the street holding her mother’s hand.
“At Least 276 Kids 16 and Younger Have Been Shot in Chicago Since 2021,” wrote CBS Chicago on January 24, 2022.
The shooting outside the theatre in the Loop Sunday night, “was enough to make many involved in the production understandably unwilling or unable to perform or crew the show,” said the Chicago Tribune. “Thus the audience was sent home.”
“This is an ominous sign of how far out of control violence in the Loop has been allowed to get,” concluded the CT, adding later that, “Patrons of a musical have a right to feel safe.”
This is an ominous sign?
“Broadway in Chicago officers and employees have been saying for months that police protection in the theatre district is inadequate and many audience members told reporters Sunday night that they had been reluctant to come to the Loop in the first place,” The Chicago Tribune’s Editorial Board admitted.
“During the pandemic, it became clear that Michigan Avenue had a safety problem, including a negative perception that was hurting businesses,” the CT continued before noting that violence prevents the foot-traffic that prevents violence in a vicious cycle: “Crowds on the street deter crime and make the Loop feel safer. If reasons to come downtown at night are diminished, then the safety perception problem only gets worse.”
Failing to curtail such might eventually, “suck the cultural life out of one of the greatest entertainment downtowns in the world,” the board complained.
Chicago residents living in areas not as swanky as the Loop, who probably don’t have the discretionary income to attend a Broadway production downtown these days anyway, are likely far less concerned for the metaphorical “cultural life” of their city and more about their actual lives.
836 people died by homicide in 2021, 25 more than in 2020 and 299 more than in 2019. As of April 14, 2022, 156 had died by violence in Chicago.
“Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods were more dangerous than ever in 2021,” concluded the Chicago Sun Times in January. “Though the rise in murders slowed from 2020, last year was the deadliest since the mid-1990s. Mayor Lightfoot and her City Council critics are at odds over what to do.”
“I hear gunshots every day,” lifelong Chicago resident Angela Hernandez-Sutton was quoted in the article as saying. “I just listen to hear where they’re coming from, then move to the front or the back of the house.”
“It feels different now than it was,” Hernandez-Sutton told the Chicago Sun Times. “You used to get a couple weeks, months even, where you didn’t hear shooting. Not anymore.”
Part of the problem in Chicago can be found in the above paragraphs, as quoted directly from some of the most influential newspapers and media outlets in the state of Illinois.
Qualifiers like, “safety problem, including a negative perception,” and, “Though the rise in murders slowed from 2020”.
Stories about crime in Chicago are full of such attempts to spin away what is becoming an epidemic of violence. Sentences like: “The death toll is the most since the mid-1990s but lower than in the worst years of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.” Quotes from city leaders like Kiana DiStasi, spokesperson for the Chicago Loop Alliance: “Yes, people’s perception of crime downtown impacts businesses. But how much crime is rampant is unclear.”
Calling the rising crime wave in Chicago a, “negative perception,” or reducing it to a reputation problem is misleading at best. Reporting that, “the rise in murders slowed,” is dishonest.
Yes; 2022 isn’t quite keeping pace with the numbers of murders per average month Chicago experienced in 2021. Failing to disclose the fact that the colder months from January through April in Chicago aren’t when the majority of the yearly crimes are committed is where the logic falls apart. With the warmer weather, will come rising crime like Spring follows Winter.
Continuing to downplay Chicago’s skyrocketing crime rates by comparing them- favorably- to the bad old days of the mid-1990s during the height of the crack-cocaine epidemic is a strategy that is soon to run out of track as well.
Soon, the crime rates in Chicago will surpass those days and then some. City leaders are at a loss as to what to do to stop the downward slide of Chicago into more lawlessness and unrest. Little is being done to change things. Unless the situation magically improves on its own somehow, rising crime trends aren’t going to reverse.
Considering the social problems unpinning most crime in America and everywhere else, things are in fact likely to get spontaneously worse.
Inflation is putting a serious hurt on the working-class. Wealth doesn’t always trickle down, but poverty usually does. The G.D.P. contracted last quarter and other economic strains have some economists predicting a recession in 2023- a mere seven months away.
Financial hardship and economic upheaval don’t generally precede periods of lower crime, quite the contrary.
Instead of excusing, spinning and otherwise trying to explain away crime in Chicago as a “perception problem” city leaders, including members of the press, must be more honest about the situation in Chicago.
Elected officials, city and community leaders have a responsibility to protect the people of Chicago. Unfortunately for 15-year-old Dajon Gater- a young musician who often performed in an after-school program called “Guitars Over Guns” who was shot and killed on his front porch last May- and 14-year-old Tyrese Taylor- gunned down in June of 2021 not far from the moving van in which his family planned to flee the violence, it is a responsibility in which city leaders are failing.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)