Pick any descriptor you want: Problem from hell, epidemic, plague. They're all accurate. And now the latest victim of Chicago's raging gun violence problem turns out to be a teen who just last a year ago spoke out against it.
Last February, 13-year-old Zarriel Trotter appeared in a video about violence in Chicago created by the advocacy group Black Is Human. "I don't want to live around my community, where I've got to keep on hearing [about] people getting shot, people getting killed," he said.
The accidental shooting of Trotter—the Tribune reports he did not appear to be the intended target—is indicative of a new surge in gun violence in 2016. The New York Times reports that 131 people had been killed here in the first months of this year, an 84%-increase in homicides from the same period in 2015. And there have been 605 shootings in total, nearly twice as many as at this point last year. So far this year, the city is averaging more than seven shootings and one homicide per day, according to the Washington Post.
The Times explores various reasons for the increase—unseasonably warm weather, an alleged "Ferguson effect" of reluctant policing over fears of appearing on a viral video, recent administrative changes—without finding great evidence for any one. Indeed, one expert cautions theTimes against making too much of the new numbers.
“Trying to read too much into this is a grave mistake,” Craig B. Futterman, a clinical professor of law at the University of Chicago, told the paper. “We’re all just guessing.”
Still, for a problem that is never not terrifying, this year has been particularly shocking. Earlier this month, a 9-year-old boy was executed in a back lot, the result of a gang dispute; the child was the intended target. Outgoing state's attorney Anita Alvarez called the murder "among the worst I have ever seen in my almost 30 years as a prosecutor." Meanwhile, a 14-year-old girl was accidentally shot in the neck this month, while a 7-year-old was grazed by a bullet while inside her home.
Trotter's shooting will also likely be seen as more evidence of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's failures on the issue since taking office in 2011. In an interview with Fusion's Jorge Ramos in 2013, Emanuel largely obfuscated when confronted with shooting data from the previous year, the worst the city had seen since the early '90s. Since September 2011, more than 1,000 children under 17 have been shot; nearly 100 have been killed, Tribune data show. The Times also notes that police stops have also fallen 87% so far this year, while gun seizures are down 7%.
This weekend, the Tribune reported that it has been more than a year since there has been a calendar day without a shooting or homicide.
President Obama has tried taking action to address the problem; in January he announced more restrictive licensing of gun sellers, and the hiring of 230 new background checkers.
It's clear the measures have not yet worked.
"It gets scarier out here every day," a 14-year-old friend of Trotter's told the Tribune. "Young people in Chicago can't go outside without knowing whether they will be the next person fired at."
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.