In Chicago, One Weekend, 66 Shooting Victims, and Zero Arrests

Investigators at the scene of a shooting in Chicago on Sunday.

Near a laundromat, gunfire sent the children inside running to hide in the bathroom.

After a funeral meal, mourners in a courtyard were sprayed with bullets. The wounded included four teenage girls.

At a block party providing distraction from the weekend heat wave, Jahnae Patterson, 17, was shot in the face and died.

Scenes like these unfolded over and over again in Chicago during the course of a long, exceptionally violent weekend. From Friday at 6 p.m. through Sunday at midnight, 66 people were shot, 12 of whom died. The count served as a stark reminder that despite recent progress in reducing shootings and gun deaths, the root causes of Chicago’s notorious crime problem have yet to be addressed, community members and city officials said. As of Monday evening, the police had made no arrests in connection with the shootings.

“Pray for our city my baby is gone,” wrote Ms. Patterson’s mother, Tanika Humphries, on her Facebook page.

John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital on the city’s West Side was so busy that all but immediate family members waited outside for updates on their wounded loved ones, embracing and in some cases kneeling. “You could just feel the grief,” said Eric Russell, a community activist who visited them. “You had people crying and just laying down on concrete.”

The violence reached a peak early Sunday, when 30 people were shot in a three-hour span between midnight and 3 a.m., an average of one every five minutes or so. Eight of the shootings during that period had three or more victims. Over the weekend, 14 children were shot and two, both 17, died. The youngest victim was 11 and the oldest was 62. The shootings were concentrated on the west and south of the city, leaving the downtown area, where thousands attended the Lollapalooza music concert, largely unaffected.

The police said that the shootings mostly took place in four areas with high crime and high levels of gang activity, and that investigators are looking at whether they were retaliatory in nature. Some of the attacks were made on foot, others from cars, and some were met with return fire. But many of the victims were clearly not the intended targets, the police said.

Despite a steady decline since 2016, shootings in Chicago in the first five days of August were higher than they have been for the same period in recent years, according to the University of Chicago Crime Lab, which tracks gun violence in the city.

“It had seemed like the city was trending in the right direction, but when you see this, anybody who lives in the city of Chicago is going to be concerned,” said Jens Ludwig, the Crime Lab’s director.

At a news conference on Monday, the police superintendent, Eddie Johnson, and the mayor, Rahm Emanuel, sought to place much of the blame for the weekend carnage — and for the still-high rate of violent crime — on factors other than the police department or the city government, citing too many guns in circulation, the failure of courts and judges to convict and hold accountable those caught with illegal guns, and the need for better parenting.

“We need everyone, especially our judicial partners, to start making repeat gun offenders feel consequences for their actions,” Mr. Johnson said, adding: “We need everyone to come to the table with less talk, but more action.”

They said, too, that people in the neighborhoods with the most violence needed to “step up” and help the police solve these crimes. But community leaders, civil rights groups and critics of the police say those statements belie a deeper problem: That the police have given the people who live in the neighborhoods hardest hit by the violence little reason to trust them. Chicago has one of the lowest rates of solving murders of any major city in the country.

In many places, constructive interaction between the community and the police rarely happens, they say, adding that officers react in force to shootings but virtually disappear when it comes to crime prevention, community policing and, often, investigations.

The police have maintained for years that an endemic “no-snitch” culture keeps them from solving more serious violent crimes. Many residents are afraid to help because they believe there is little the police would — or could — do to protect them from retaliation.

That fear is reinforced for residents who must navigate gang territory to get to stores, take a walk, or pick up children from day care.

All the while, the police have treated many blacks and Latinos in these neighborhoods, especially young black men, contemptuously and roughly. A mayoral task force concluded in 2016 that the department’s own data helped substantiate “the widely held belief the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color.” The task force found that police practices widely perceived as racist, and a failure to punish wayward officers, had given residents justification for not cooperating.

The combined effect is that some residents feel the police are more of an occupying force than one that is there to protect them.

“The people on the south and west sides have endured deep, intergenerational trauma from having police officers brutalize folks in ways that don’t make the headlines, and seeing that happen again and again and again,” said Sheila Bedi, a law professor at Northwestern University who was a member of one of the mayoral task force’s working groups.

“The only tool the Chicago Police has is making arrests,” she added. “They’re not there to try to stop any violence. They’re entirely a reactive force.” Mending the divide will only happen with a fundamental overhaul of how the police department operates in these neighborhoods along with reinvestment by the city in resources that have been taken away, she said.

These issues came to a head after the 2014 police shooting death of a 17-year-old African-American, Laquan McDonald. Officers on the scene maintained that Mr. McDonald, armed with a knife, had moved menacingly toward Officer Jason Van Dyke, who then shot him. But a dashboard camera video contradicted that story: While Mr. McDonald had a knife, he seemed to be veering away from the police when he was shot, and the gunfire continued after he collapsed to the ground. Officer Van Dyke — who is awaiting trial — was charged with first-degree murder on the same day the city was forced to release the video, roiling the city.

At the news conference on Monday, Superintendent Johnson said the Chicago Police Department had made progress on these issues over the past two years.

“We’re working hard to repair relationships in the community, especially the black communities, with C.P.D. That’s not easy to do. You think it’s easy for me to stand up here and have to talk about this? Because it’s not. I don’t enjoy this. But I know it’s the reality of what we’re looking at,” said Superintendent Johnson, who is black. “But what I’m asking is for the community to step up and do their part also,” he added. “We can’t solve these things without the community. C.P.D. is only as good as the faith the community has in it.”

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