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Home or war zone? ‘Chiraq’ at its peak


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For a lot of people Chicago is home. It is a big city with a mass of history and even more fun things to do. For others, however, it is a “war zone.” It is not Chicago, Illinois—the windy city—it is “Chiraq, Killinois.” This name was given to Chicago because the number of deaths in Chicago has exceeded the number of deaths in Afghanistan.

According to the total number of murders in Chicago from Jan. 31, 2003 to Dec. 31, 2012 was 4,797 while the number of deaths in Afghanistan was 2,166 from Oct. 7, 2001 until now.

Violence in Chicago is still increasing rapidly. According to the Chicago Police Department’s weekly statistics Chicago has already surpassed the number of deaths from last year. They reported that there have been 51 homicides in comparison to last year’s 49 homicides as of Feb. 17.  That means there was 4 percent increase in homicide the past year and a 16 percent increase the past two years.

Among those 51 murders is Hadiya Pendleton. Pendleton was a 15-year-old sophomore at King College Prep High School. She was fatally shot on Jan. 31 at a park after school. The shooting was in broad daylight after being released form school early due to exams. Pendleton was not involved in any gang related activities. She was merely an example of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Michael Ward has been charged and convicted with the murder of Pendleton. He was also charged for shooting the boy who accompanied Pendleton the day of her murder.  Kenneth Williams was also charged. Both Williams and Ward were gang members seeking revenge from a rival gang. They saw the group of students gathering and instantly shot fire.

Daniel Owusu-Bempah, a freshman computer science major, is a Chicago native. He said he knew Williams and had a class with him his sophomore year of high school. Owusu-Bempah reported that Williams did not seem like the type of person who would do something like this. “He was the class clown,” he said.

Owusu-Bempah has a little brother that attends King College Prep High School and he said he was scared for his brother because of what happened to Pendleton can “happen to anyone.” Owusu-Bempah said before he left for college, he made sure to tell his brother the okay spot to hang out. He also showed him the places—like the park Pendleton killed—not to hang out.

Marcella Slay, freshman legal studies major, is also a Chicago native. She graduated from Morgan Park High school. Morgan Park is located in one of the rough neighborhoods in Chicago. It is a fairly large public high school and has students from all over Chicago. According to Slay, this is one of the reasons why this school has so much violence. People from different gangs clash and this creates tension in and outside the classroom.

“The police department isn’t doing their job,” Slay said. She said that crime is excessive and nothing is being done about it.

Earlier this year, Slay said a boy by the name of Tyrone Lawson also known as “Ty Weezy,” was shot after attending a basketball game at Chicago State. He was a senior honor student at Morgan Park. He was caught in between a fight with Morgan Park and Simeon High School.

According to Slay, lives are being taken away unfairly. Gang violence and violence in general has a ripple effect on not only the students that are involved, but the innocent students who just got to school to get an education. In 2008, Slay said that someone dear to her became a victim to gang violence. She said he was in a gang and he was simply on a rival gang’s territory and was shot and killed on April 1, 2008.

“It can be scary,” she said. Some gangs fight over territory in a three to four-mile radius.  She fears for her family that still lives in Chicago.

Both Slay and Owusu-Bempah agree that the only way to cease violence in Chicago would be by brute force. “Police officers should be on every single block…not every other block,” Owusu-Bempah said.

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Award winning, student run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield..
Home or war zone? ‘Chiraq’ at its peak