Stories behind the statistics

Every Chicagoan has seen gun homicide maps of Chicago filled with tiny red dots, but the real impact of each shooting is more than just a dot on a map


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Chicago has become numb to gun violence, according to a Chicago victims advocate.

Tom Brindisi, the senior associate executive director for the Chicago Area Project, one of the biggest community advocacy organizations in Illinois, has intimate knowledge of the city, but he said the city still often confounds him and other advocates, who struggle to understand why the murder rate never seems to come down.

Last year marked the second straight year Chicago saw more gun homicides than New York and Los Angeles combined. The causes of the high murder rate have been a constant point of contention between community advocates and Chicago citizens. Advocates like Mr. Brindisi reference the breakup of street gangs in the early 2000s as a spur of violence, while elected officials including Mayor Rahm Emanuel cite policing strategies and systematic reform as the cause of gun violence.

The Chicago Area Project is one of many organizations working within communities to learn the stories of those affected by violence around the city. They then train community members to become their own advocates and start their own organizations.

The staggering statistics often miss the human impact of gun violence on citizens and neighborhoods.

“People need to stop seeing this issue as a ‘those people’ problem,” Mr. Brindisi said. “The best way to get people to see the root causes of this violence is for them to see and hear the stories of people within their communities who are affected by violence daily.”