A wave of gun violence rocked the Brighton Park community on the city’s Southwest Side the weekend of Oct. 22.
Three shootings resulted in four people dead and three injured, with the deadliest incident taking place during a street takeover at Archer and Kedzie avenues. In the early hours of Sunday, Oct. 23, more than 100 cars gathered at the intersection to watch a “drifting” event that ended with an exchange of gunfire, killing three young men and injuring two more.
Arturo Carrillo, deputy director of health and violence prevention for Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, describes the community as working-class and predominantly Latino immigrants for whom violence is a “constant reality.”
Chicago police stated that the three young men killed in the Oct. 23 shooting had gang affiliations, but Carrillo says his organization believes it to be a premature judgment.
“Early reports by police indicate gangs as a reason — they always default to that. That isn’t always verified and we know that there’s multiple reasons people get shot in the city of Chicago,” he said. “We know that unfortunately disenfranchised youth are more likely to be impacted by violence and also cause violence on others. And so for us, we know that under-resourced communities have violence as an issue and it’s not always related to gangs, so we really want to be careful with that narrative.”
Mayra Avila, board president of Southwest Collective, says the street takeovers like the one that took place Oct. 23 have occurred with increasing frequency. She attributes that in part to the difficulties brought on by the pandemic and a lack of community options for young people.
“My belief is that some of this may be coming from desperation from the youth,” Avila said. “We have been locked up for the past three years due to COVID, and they unfortunately do not have many resources and outlets to be able to express themselves.”
She says she would like to see investment in the community that goes beyond more police intervention.
“I think that we need more funding for mental health, violence prevention. It’s also important that our youth has stable job opportunities and that should also include DACA and immigrant youth,” she said. “I know there are some programs that the city offers for youth to have summer jobs, but unfortunately some of those do not cover our DACA and our immigrant communities. I think that we need to have some counseling programs for our kids, some including therapy sessions, group programs that are available to the youth to be able to express themselves and have a safe place to go to ask questions if they’re receiving peer pressure, have an outlet to go to and talk to them.”
Carrillo says he agrees with Avila’s assessment of what is needed to curb violence in his neighborhood.
“We always look at these opportunities to bring attention to why more investment has to be made in our communities. Brighton Park as a community can often be overlooked because there’s of course other parts of the city that deal with higher volumes of gun violence, but we know that no one’s completely protected from the realities of Chicago where we have so many guns on the streets,” he said. “When you think about how much money is invested by the city and violence prevention, it’s only $85 million, that may sound like a lot … But when you put that side by side with how much we’re spending on police, that’s $2 billion. If the $2 billion dollars that we invest in police would be keeping us safe, this would not have occurred, but it’s not working, right? So what we’re looking for now is more substantial investments in our communities.”