The Weather Report
Memorial Day weekend kicked off the unofficial beginning of summer in Chicago with a long list of outdoor activities: street closures due to construction caused headaches for motorists; the beaches officially opened, allowing Chicago area E. Coli enthusiasts to bathe in fetid waters from Belmont Harbor to Oak Street Beach and beyond; and farmers markets around the city opened for the season. The official start of summer happened this week with the arrival of the summer solstice on June 20, which is a day earlier than usual because 2012 is a leap year. Also early this year: the annual summer shooting sprees. Type the words “shooting” and “Chicago” into any search engine and you’ll find news items and blog posts regarding recent gun violence. Ten people died from shotgun wounds in Chicago over Memorial Day Weekend alone, 8 died and over 40 were injured in gun related violence the weekend of June 8-10. With the unseasonably warm winter we just had, the seemingly weather-induced violence began as early as March. In a recent NPR piece, Dr. Jens Ludwig, head of the University of Chicago's crime lab, said higher temperatures bring more people outdoors, which seems to lead to more crime.
DR. JENS LUDWIG: And we know that when there are more people out and about there are just more opportunities for crime. And so, I think the thing that everybody is talking about - mild, wet winter weather - might actually be a contributing factor to this thing that we're seeing.
Chicago has long been known for its violence; before the advent of Michael Jordan, the usual trope heard in foreign cities by visiting Windy City residents was “Chicago, bang bang,” thanks to Public Enemy #1, Al Capone; a figure who left Chicago with a mixed legacy. I can’t think of another American city that clings to its felonious past with as much pride and enterprise; if you log onto www.gangstertour.com you can make reservations for something called Untouchable Tours, which is described on their homepage, appropriately enough, in bullet points.
EXPERIENCE...Chicago as it was during the 1920s and 30s!
SEE...the old gangster hot spots and hit spots!
HEAR...historically accurate accounts of the exploits of Capone, Moran, Dillinger and the rest a da boys!
FEEL...the excitement of jazz-age Chicago during the era of Prohibition!
ENJOY...a journey into the past as we cruise the city in search of the old hoodlum haunts, brothels, gambling dens and sites of gangland shootouts!
I don’t think weather had much to do with 1920’s gangland Chicago, there were other factors: prohibition high on the list. So what is it about warmer weather that seems to make us more violent? We hole up all winter long, ordering pizza and watching cable TV so we won’t have to go outside, we only leave the cocoon of our homes to walk our dogs and dig our cars out from under twenty inches of snow. We long for the day that we can open the windows and walk around the house in our underwear. We imagine that warmer temperatures mean going outside and socializing more, and when summer actually arrives, socializing more can mean anything from barbequing in the backyard, to watching movies in the park, to a drive-by shooting. Does the heat literally make our blood boil?
In a recent piece in Medill Reports, Arthur Lurigio, a professor of social psychology and crime expert at Loyola University in Chicago, suggested that the culprit is not the temperature so much as it is people leaving their homes.
“People who commit crimes are just as susceptible to the weather as law abiding citizens are… more people spend time outside when the weather is nice, which can facilitate everything from pickpocketing to gang violence. And with 83 percent of homicides in 2011 having been committed outside, it’s no surprise that monthly crime rates would be higher when the weather is more temperate.”
This could lead one to conclude that it’s not the heat, and it’s not the humidity, its contact with other people that increases the probability of violence. Perhaps Chicago should consider changing its motto, “I Will,” to be more specific. “I Will Be 83% More Likely To Kill You Outdoors,” or: “If The Mercury Rises Above 90 degrees, I Will Be More Likely To Shoot You.” If that’s too wordy, we could always get literary and go with the famous Jean-Paul Sartre line from No Exit, “Hell Is Other People,” which would make a great travel poster, and would confuse and irritate tourists, figuratively killing two birds with one stone.
The recent spike in violence has not gone unnoticed and earlier this week I received an email from my Alderman, Richard F. Mell, which included the following item:
4) This Saturday, June 23, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. there
will be a gun turn-in drive at 23 locations throughout the city.
The closest collection site to our ward is the Uptown Baptist
Church on 1011 W. Wilson. For more facts and all locations, click on: http://33rdward.org/Gun.pdf
There’s an embedded link in the email that takes the reader to a pdf document listing ten frequently asked questions regarding the gun turn-in, typed in all caps, which is generally considered “yelling” on the Internet, which I guess is appropriate:
1. WILL ANYONE ASK HOW OR WHERE I GOT THE GUN?
2. WHERE CAN I USE THE PREPAID VISA DEBIT CARD? (part of the gun turn-in incentive is debit cards in exchange for firearms)
A: anywhere that accepts Visa debit cards.
3. HOW MANY GUNS CAN I TURN IN?
A: every gun turned in will be accepted, and each gun will be exchanged for a prepaid debit card.
4. WHAT HAPPENS TO GUNS AFTER I TURN THEM IN?
A: all guns turned in will be destroyed.
5. CAN I TURN IN A BB, REPLICA OR AIR GUN?
A: yes, BB guns turned in will be exchanged for a $10 debit card; toy guns will not.
6. DO I HAVE TO GIVE MY NAME TO VISA IN ORDER TO USE THE CARD?
7. WHAT IF I CAN’T MAKE IT BETWEEN 10:00AM AND 4:00PM SATURDAY, JUNE 23, 2012?
(For instance, what if I’m reading a piece at the Paper Machete?) A: you can always dial 911 or turn in your gun to a police station; however, only guns turned in on June 23 will be exchanged for a prepaid debit card.
8. WILL I GET ANY MONEY FOR MY BULLETS, MAGAZINES OR HOLSTERS?
A: no, however, you may turn them in.
9. CAN I TURN IN PART OF A GUN OR GUN PARTS FOR A PREPAID VISA DEBIT CARD?
A: no, but feel free to turn them in.
10. HOW DO I GET ADDITIONAL INFORMATION?
A: call the CAPS Implementation Office at 312-745-5900.
Perhaps you marked the solstice this week by going to one of the museums that stayed open late – the MCA or the Peggy Notebaert; maybe you got up extra early for the Sunrise Yoga Cruise with Shoreline Sightseeing; perhaps you were lucky enough to catch JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound at the Pritzker Pavilion; or maybe you got your Pagan on, erected a scale model of Stonehenge in your backyard, and got stoned. However you chose to mark the advent of summer in Chicago, approach this hottest of seasons with caution: buy a new thing of sunscreen, chances are the old one in your medicine cabinet has expired; the same goes for bug dope. Splurge on a big floppy hat for added sun protection and a pair of fashionable UV blocking sunglasses. If you’re a beachgoer, buy a pair of flip flops or water shoes so your feet won’t get all burnt up on hot sand and cut up on broken glass. And most importantly – no matter how high the mercury rises keep a cool head, turn in your guns to your local police station, and consider spending more time indoors. It might be the best decision you make this season.