A 5-month-old baby shot in the head in a Chicago shootout this week became the youngest victim of the violent epidemic raging this summer in several major cities in the United States.
The infant was in the arms of one of two young men who were shot by attackers from their car in the Old Town neighborhood.
“He is in stable condition”, reassured Thursday Eric Carter, number two of the police of Chicago, city with the endemic crime. “It is heartbreaking. It’s not normal for anyone, whether in Chicago or elsewhere ”.
The shootings have sadly become more and more “Normal” this summer across the United States, where hundreds of people have been killed, including dozens of children, and thousands more injured.
A one-year-old child died in late June in Chicago. Another of the same age suffered the same fate, in his stroller, on July 12 in New York.
Certain areas of Chicago have taken on the appearance of combat zones. According to the Chicago Tribune newspaper, 1,901 people had been shot dead in the third city of the United States on July 13, killing 373, a hundred more than the previous year.
In New York, 795 people had been shot by the same date, with more than 200 dead, again a significant increase compared to 2019.
Many other major American cities, including Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Baltimore, have been hit by this wave of violence that has been on the rise since early July.
“If we don’t take care of it, it could get even worse in the months to come”, warns Corey Brooks, pastor of a Chicago church.
The perpetrators and victims of the shootings are overwhelmingly young African-American men, often members of small clans or gangs who take up arms to settle personal or territorial disputes over drug trafficking.
Mockery and provocations on the Snapchat social network, particularly popular with young people, are the cause of many shootings.
These small groups, which the police find it difficult to monitor, post rap videos in which threats are heard until the situation escalates.
“These are only reprisals, amplified by social networks”, analyzes Christopher Herrmann, professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
“It’s not even drug related, it’s personal revenge”, supports Pastor Brooks. “They are so young, they have not yet learned to settle conflicts”.
The number of shootings traditionally increases during the summer when people leave their homes to find themselves on the street, sometimes until late.
And the Covid-19 epidemic has further accentuated the movement after long months of confinement during which “Violence has accumulated”, notes academic Christopher Herrmann.
The economic impact of the epidemic, which has put millions of Americans out of work, has also put pressure on gangs and their families.
“Our communities do not have a stable economy. And when you add the Covid to it, the frustration is even greater. ”, says Chicago pastor Corey Brooks.
The death of George Floyd – an African American killed in late May by a white police officer in Minneapolis – and the ensuing protests against racism and police brutality may also partly explain the current spate of violence in the United States.
Gil Monrose, a pastor in the Brooklyn neighborhood of New York, says police are now more reluctant to investigate and less present at night, leaving the field open to gangs.
“The police and the population seem to be at war”he says.
Some local authorities, hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, have cut police budgets, notes Christopher Herrmann.
He particularly regrets the dismantling by the mayor of New York of the city’s anti-crime squad, which in the past has largely contributed to limiting the number of weapons in circulation.
“The problem is the weapons”, considers the teacher. “We have an absurdly high number of weapons in the United States. “