The Latest On Several Violent Weekends In Chicago
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
At least 17 people have been shot in Chicago since just yesterday afternoon. Every weekend over the past 90 days, Chicago has watched as dozens of people have been wounded or killed in shootings. President Trump is making something of it. He talked to Sean Hannity about it on FOX this weekend.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: What's going on in Chicago - and we are looking at it very seriously because we're going to have to do something. We've asked them, you know, we're really supposed to be asked to come in and help, the federal government, and we have the greatest people in the world. And we can solve it.
SIMON: Patrick Smith is a criminal justice reporter for WBEZ in Chicago and joins us now. Patrick, thanks for being with us.
PATRICK SMITH, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.
SIMON: How grave is the gun violence problem in Chicago right now?
SMITH: It's very grave. You know, in the first six months of the year, nearly 1,700 people were shot in Chicago, 329 people were killed. The city is on pace for more murders this year than we've had in more than a decade. Just last weekend, the Fourth of July weekend, nearly 90 people were shot, 17 of them died. Another weekend in June, a few weeks before that, there were more than 100 people shot between Friday and Monday.
SIMON: It is almost too hard to think about the fact that so many of the victims of gun violence have been children.
SMITH: That's right. So far this year, more than 25 kids have been killed by guns in Chicago. Actually just last night, a 15-year-old boy was killed by gunshots to the back, according to police. The info we have on most of these cases the child was obviously not the target, rather they were with a family member maybe who was targeted or just a stray bullet. And many of the children killed have been elementary school aged or even younger.
SIMON: Recognizing that every case is a tragedy and different, what seems to be behind many of these shootings? You mentioned retaliation. What response has there been from the city to try and interrupt that? And we understand Chicago police are about to launch a new unit that is centered on neighborhoods with the highest rates of violence.
SMITH: Yeah, that's right. You know - so as far as what's driving these - the info that I've gotten from police and anti-violence workers on the street is that these shootings are mostly done by young men who are involved with gangs and that it's often interpersonal conflicts that escalate into shootings. To combat this, police are trying to feud different tactics. They started up a mobile summer unit that responds to violence hot spots. And you mentioned, the CPD is launching a new citywide anti-violence unit that's supposed to respond to areas that see a surge in shootings. This is a tactic that's been tried before in the city and actually - these specialized shooting units have been disbanded in the past out of concern that they alienate residents and hurt police community relations, although the relatively new superintendent says they're taking steps to make sure that doesn't happen this time. The city's also been investing in community-based gang intervention efforts outside of police efforts.
TRUMP: President Trump has leveled a finger at Chicago's violence for a long time, trying to make a political point and talked about federal intervention. What's his response been recently to this increase in shootings?
SMITH: Well, he sent a letter a couple weeks ago to Chicago's mayor and the governor of Illinois saying he was horrified by the shootings in Chicago and offering help. He's never really been specific about what kind of help he's offering. And the local leaders here in Chicago, all of them Democrats, have rejected his offers as political posturing.
SIMON: Patrick Smith of member station WBEZ in Chicago. Thanks so much, Patrick.
SMITH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.