CHICAGO—This year, Chicago received national attention because if its violence issue, a problem that along with other undesirable traditions has plagued the city for years.
The city saw a huge movement when 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who had returned from performing at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, was shot dead at a park just a mile away from Obama’s Chicago home.
The latest homicide left 6-month-old Jonylah Watkins dead and her father, Jonathan, seriously injured. Jonathan Watkins stood outside of a minivan as he used the front passenger seat as a diaper-changing table Monday afternoon, when a gunman approached and fired shots into the car, striking both father and daughter. Jonylah Watkins was pronounced dead Tuesday morning, police said.
Police say that like many of the more than 500 murders that happened in Chicago last year, this one could have been the result of a gang altercation, leading to an innocent child’s death.
According to Chicago police, Jonathan Watkins has known gang affiliations. Just like so many victims in similar cases, police believe his daughter was not the intended target.
“It’s hard sometimes to be exact,” said Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy. “Where we find gang members in shootings with other gang members, it probably has a gang undertone. It’s not an exact science. Where we really can’t separate it as narcotics from gang.”
But for the most recent shooting, “The likelihood is that that’s either going to involve gangs or narcotics, because that’s the background of her father,” McCarthy said.
Many of the shootings happening in Chicago are gang-related, authorities and analysts say. According to the Chicago Crime Commission, an organization that partners with different organizations to “advocate for and educate the public about promising programs and policies” surrounding Chicago’s crime problem, from January to June of 2012, Chicago had 263 homicides, 134 of which were gang-related. The commission’s senior executive director Joseph Ways, who has career experience with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Philadelphia Police Department and the Los Angeles Police Department during the Rodney King Riots, says what’s unique about Chicago’s crime issue, along with its entrenched gangs, is random shootings of innocent bystanders.
“By comparison sake, Chicago’s is much worse of a gang issue than Lost [sic] Angeles is. You didn’t have the indiscriminate shootings of innocent victims,” Ways told theGrio.
It’s an issue that many agree gun control wouldn’t necessarily fix. McCarthy, who was the chief at the New York Police Department before coming to Chicago says, “This is not about telling people that they cannot legally own a firearm. What it’s doing is stemming the illegal flow of gun into our streets. And once you’re caught with an illegal gun, you get a significant punishment, so that you’re not available to commit another crime, and at the same time it’s going to deter you from carrying that gun the next time.”