Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Chicago shooting reflects deadly image

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Chicago's sometimes-gritty image took a double hit this week with a shocking late-night shooting and the release of a new report that showed the Second City ranked first in homicides.

The shooting took place Thursday as residents gathered at the South Side's Cornell Square Park to watch a basketball game. A three-year-old boy was among the 13 injured in what is thought to be a gang-related attack.

That violence came just three days after Chicago grabbed headlines as "the nation's murder capital." The distinction was based on a new Federal Bureau of Investigation report that showed Chicago, with 500 murders in 2012, had more killings than any other U.S. city that year.

The people injured and lives lost has a terrible effect on people in the communities closest to the violence -- yet the reverberations spread city- and countrywide, says Tim Calkins, a strategy and branding expert who teaches at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Ill.

Each report that deems Chicago as a dangerous town "shapes the perceptions that people have of the city," he says.

"When you say the name of a city, you want to have positive associations about the wonderful downtown area or the sports teams. You don't want the first thing to be violence," he says. "Every time Chicago is in the headlines for violence, the reputation gets a little more tarnished."

Congresswoman Robin Kelly, D-Ill., whose district touches on Chicago's South Side, notes that shocking crime, such as Thursday night's shooting, could affect a business's decision to open up in certain areas the city -- which could have a negative economic effect on the community.

Stricter gun laws would help reduce the violence, she says, but more than that is needed. Young people must gain access to more job opportunities, as well as be able to connect with helpful advisers, so they can discover options that go beyond joining gangs or committing crimes.

"We're trying to come up with solutions besides the laws," she says. There need to be more "internships, job training and mentoring" for kids who are at risk of going down a violent path.

The Back of the Yards neighbourhood, which includes Thursday's shooting location, faces economic and educational challenges, says Mariame Kaba, director of Project NIA, a non-profit group that focuses on juvenile justice issues in Chicago.

There are few jobs in the area, and several schools have closed, she says.

-- USA Today

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 22, 2013 A6

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