Chicago suffers from an increase in violence
In downtown Chicago, businesses that have survived the coronavirus driven economic crisis should be delighted with the city’s reopening on Monday. But many are suffering another blow: an upsurge in violence that keeps customers — and their wallets at bay.
“I’ve never felt so unsycruise as I do now,” Steve Burrows, a 48-year-old lawyer who has always lived in Chicago, told AFP. “I work downtown, so I’m here every day during the day, but I wouldn’t come in the evening or on weekends.”
If people like him, suburbanites and the millions of tourists usually present do not come, Chicago businesses will feel the consequences, especially since, for many, the uproar of the last 16 months has left its mark.
Chicago, America’s third largest city, is far from being an isolated case: all over the United States, localities are seeing an increase in violence.
“The truth is that no one really knows what led to this increase” which concerns “gun crimes” and other types of violent crime, says Roseanna Ander, executive director of the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab, which studies crime.
However, the pandemic has exacerbated many social problems. ‘It has exacerbated everything, amplified everything,’ says Ander.
“Our city is safe” (Chicago suffers from an increase in violence)
In Chicago, crime is entering areas previously considered safe, and no category of violent crime is immune to the increase. Shootings on the highway have reached an unprecedented level: 93 since the beginning of the year compared to 39 at the same time last year.
In the city centre, the culprits are young people who have created chaos over the weekends of the past two months by committing robberies and assaults, all of which, according to business owners, are driving customers away.
Yet Mayor Lori Lightfoot is optimistic.
On Tuesday, as Chicago suffered its third shooting in three days, it called for more federal assistance to stem the flow of illegal weapons, while adopting a positive tone. “The reality is that our city is safe. I stand by it,’ said Mr. Lightfoot.
Raymond Lopez, a local elected official critical of the mayor, believes that she lives in “the world of bisounours” and that she was wrong to reduce recently the possibility for the police to pursue suspects by car.
“The police have to catch the criminals. It must stop planting flowers and building community gardens, and start catching people who commit crimes,” he said.
For Mr. Lopez, the city’s economic recovery is suffering from its bad reputation, with a quarter of the city’s budget based on income from tourism and hotels.
“When people all over the country associate Chicago with dangerousness, no one will want to come here.”
“I can’t live” (Chicago suffers from an increase in violence)
For Jackie Jackson, 49, and his daughter Janel Jackson, 27, who own three Kilwins ice cream stores in Chicago, one of which was looted last year on the sidelines of protests against police violence, violence is pushing stores to close earlier due to a lack of customers.
“People want to go out and have fun at 7pm, but safety comes first,” says Janel Jackson. Having to close so early because there is no one in the city centre affects us enormously.”
“Everyone is worried,” confirms Sam Toia, head of an association of restaurateurs in the city. We want people to feel safe when they visit our beautiful city.”
Although Jackie Jackson believed in Chicago’s commercial potential, crime forced her to develop a plan to leave her.
“I don’t carry a purse anymore… I don’t go to the parking lots. I don’t use the services while driving because I’m too scared. I don’t wear jewelry. I can’t live,” she says.
“I can’t wait to buy myself a small lakeside house, sit on the porch, sip iced tea somewhere and live happily ever after, because it’s scary.”
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