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Nearly half of Chicago natives witness a shooting by age 40

Nearly 7% of Black Chicago natives report having been shot by age 40, a newly released survey found.
Nearly half of Chicago natives witness a shooting by age 40
Posted at 7:10 AM, May 16, 2023

A new survey released by the University of Cambridge indicated that nearly half of Chicago natives witness a shooting by age 40. 

The survey followed those who grew up in Chicago as children and teens in the 1990s. The average age to witness their first shooting was 14, the survey found. 

The survey also found a large racial disparity between those who witnessed shootings. Cambridge’s data indicates that 56% of Black and Hispanic Chicago natives witnessed a shooting by age 40, compared to 25% of White Chicago natives. 

There was also a large racial disparity among those who have been shot. The survey found that 7% of Black and Hispanic Chicago natives have been wounded by gunfire by age 40, compared to 3% of White Chicago natives. The average age of victims was 17, the data indicates. 

One major factor was that shootings were 12 times more likely to occur near the homes of Black participants than of White participants. Shootings were four times more likely to occur near Hispanic participants’ residences than near White participants, the survey found.

SEE MORE: Empowered youth take a stand against gun violence and confront trauma

The level of violence young people are exposed to concerns researchers. 

“Existing evidence suggests that the long-term stress of exposure to firearm violence can contribute to everything from lower test scores for schoolkids to diminished life expectancy through heart disease,” study lead author Dr. Charles Lanfear of the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology said in a press release. 

The homicide rate in Chicago in 2021 was nearly quadruple the U.S. average. The U.S. homicide rate per 100,000 in 2021 was 6.9, according to the FBI. Chicago had 29.6 homicides per 100,000 in 2021. 

Even with Chicago’s high homicide rate, researchers were surprised by how many people were affected by gun violence. 

“We expected levels of exposure to gun violence to be high, but not this high. Our findings are frankly startling and disturbing,” said Lanfear. “A substantial portion of Chicago’s population could be living with trauma as a result of witnessing shootings and homicides, often at a very young age.”

According to data compiled by the University of Chicago, the city’s homicide rate is back up after years of declines. In 1991, the city averaged a homicide rate of 32.9 per 100,000 residents. From 2004 to 2014, the homicide rate was cut in half. 

The data indicated that men were five times more likely to be shot than women. But the disparity between genders for being a witness to gun violence was far less: 58% among men and 43% among women. 

“The study participants are taken from right across Chicago, and only a tiny fraction will be involved in any kind of crime. Given the levels of women and children witnessing gun violence in the city, the vast majority of this exposure will be as bystanders in public spaces, in streets or outside schools,” Lanfear said. 


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