I recently completed my very first MOOC, massive open online course, called Maps and the Geospatial Revolution
where I learned quite a bit about geospatial data and technology and how to use ArcGIS
, an online platform for building data and creating maps. We had to create a map for our final assignment so I thought I would do something useful, relevant, and related to a place with which I am connected and familiar: Chicago and its violence. Using ArcGIS, I have created a map
showing the locations of all Chicago homicides that occurred in 2013 up until August 21st, which was when I created the map. The points of murder overly different layers including either median income, diversity level, and/or “race” predominance of neighborhoods, depending on which layer you select. You can view the map here: 2013 Chicago Homicides in Perspective
. Under “content” on the left-hand side panel, you can toggle the different layers on and off. View the “legend” to see what the different colors indicate. I have included screenshots below so that you can get a sense of the findings without using ArcGIS.
Chicago homicides overlying median income. The highest income areas are shaded in green and the lowest income areas are a very light yellow. As we can see, there are very few homicides in any of the green areas and an abundance in the lightest, poorest, areas on the map.
Chicago homicides overlying diversity index. The most diverse areas are dark blue, while the least diverse areas are light yellow. As we can see, Chicago looks fairly segregated as there are not really many diverse areas of Chicago, and it is in the least diverse areas where most of the murders seem to occur.
Chicago homicides overlying “race” population predominance. African American predominant populations are red, Hispanic populations are green, Asian populations are purple, white populations are gray, etc. As we can see, a majority of the murders occur in predominately African American neighborhoods of Chicago, as well as some Latino neighborhoods.
When we take a look at all of the maps we see that the poorest areas and least diverse areas of Chicago are where most of the murders take place. These areas of Chicago are where a majority of people of color live, mainly black people and Latinos. Chicago is not simply segregated in terms of people, but resources, as well. It is no mistake that the people on the south side and west side have little opportunities in life, whether it is education, jobs, or a place for children to play. People on both sides of the political spectrum call on gun control laws as the reason for the violence in Chicago; some say that gun laws are too strict and that if they were not other people would be able to defend themselves and there would be less incentive to pull a trigger; others say that the city needs to do more to limit the access of guns because if all of the guns were not so easily available people would not be murdered left and right. The availability of guns is an issue, but a lot of these folks do not even buy their guns from places that legally sell guns. The most logical reasons—and what I think are the primary reasons—for the excessive violence is poverty and lack of opportunities available to the people living on the south and west sides of the city, as well as unjust laws embedded into our criminal “justice” system. Yes, institutional racism is a thing. No, we are not beyond that. It has merely been disguised. Yes, there are certain, cleverly written laws that disproportionately affect specific populations (read The New Jim Crow). One look into a prison should tell you everything, but that is another topic.
My original intention was to do a stop and frisk map where, instead of points of each homicide, there would be points of each stop and frisk, but there really is no specific data available for this in order to make a map. If anyone would like to work on such a project, please let me know. I am fairly certain that the results would be the same: stop and frisks occur in areas where a majority of poor and people of color live. When you funnel money into fancy condos, venues, already healthy areas of a city, politicians pockets, etc. and completely abandon the people who live in less desirable areas of a city, leaving them with no access to jobs, proper education, functional facilities, or even grocery stores and treat them as criminals from the beginning, what do you expect? When you have nothing else, not even some hope, the power of pulling a trigger and playing executioner might fill that void. How much longer are we willing to leave that void open to violence?