Memorial Day Weekend Violence Down from Last Year, Absent from Rogers Park

Courtesy of Tony WebsterNearly half of the Memorial Day weekend gun violence happened on the Monday holiday itself, according to Chicago Police.

Chicago gun violence took the lives of five people and wounded 44 others this Memorial Day weekend, with nearly half of the violence occurring on Monday May 29 alone, according to the Chicago Police Department (CPD). Most of the shooting occurred on the city’s South and West sides, and claimed the lives of two minors: a 17-year-old and 15-year-old.

While the number of shootings was down somewhat from last Memorial Day weekend’s 61 total shootings, it fits into the trend of elevated street violence in the city during spring and summer months, according to CPD. In 2015, there were 57 total shootings and 12 gun deaths; in 2014, there were 34 total shootings with six killed; in 2013, there were only 21 shootings and four deaths during the entire Memorial Day weekend, according to Chicago Tribune data.

While none of the weekend’s gun violence took place in Rogers Park, the neighborhood still sees a spike in violent crime during warmer months, according to Loyola criminology professor and 35-year CPD veteran Robert Lombardo.

“Drugs are part of [the reason for the violence], territory is part of it, but there’s also the Facebook effect,” Lombardo said. “For whatever reason, these guys take to the internet and they diss each other and that actually contributes to the violence.”

Crime in Rogers Park decreased over the last decade — from nearly 500 violent crimes in 2006 to just under 300 in 2016, according to City of Chicago crime data — but violent crime in the neighborhood increases in the spring and summer.

“Warmer weather means more people out on the street,” said Loyola Campus Safety Sgt. Tim Cunningham. “School is out, and more people on vacation away from homes leads to more burglaries.”

As Sunday came to a close, this year’s holiday weekend was shaping up to be less bloody than its predecessor with 16 shootings and two deaths — fewer than half the shootings of the previous year. But with Memorial Day came waves of violence that wracked the city’s streets: 24 more people shot, five of them killed.

In an attempt to prevent the kind of violent flare-ups that occurred during previous Memorial Day weekends, 1,300 additional police officers were on duty beginning Saturday May 27, up from 880 extra officers last year, said Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson in a press conference. CPD also placed a mobile command center, a large van able to coordinate police responses on the go, in areas known for drug trafficking and gang violence, Johnson said.

Chicago’s high rates of gang-related violence, especially during the summer, is the result of a culmination of factors, according to Lombardo.

“It’s a perfect storm of everything, whether it’s historical segregation [or] deindustrialization. Some would argue it’s the welfare state and the ‘welfare mothers’ and out of wedlock births that created [today’s gang violence],” Lombardo said. “We created what they used to call ‘the underclass’ so to speak … this immobile group of people that couldn’t benefit from traditional social advances. If you take away the mechanism for these young people to mature out of gangs, the only job they have is gang work.”

In an effort to quell the violence before it got out of hand, CPD conducted a series of overnight raids on Friday May 26 that resulted in the arrests of more than 30 gang members and the confiscation of their drugs and firearms, said CPD’s chief of the bureau of organized crime Anthony Riccio in a press conference on the raids Saturday May 27.

“The Chicago Police Department conducted a gang enforcement mission to target the individuals that are driving the sale of drugs and, often times (sic), defending their territory by resorting to gun violence,” Johnson said. “CPD will use every tool we have to reduce the violence we’ve historically seen on the Memorial Day weekend.”

CPD News Affairs said they wouldn’t comment on the Memorial Day weekend violence.

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