Chicago Crime Wave Claims Youth

Whether because of gang turf battles, warm weather, reduced funding for outreach programs or teenage temper tantrums, violence is claiming more of Chicago's youth.

More than a third of the victims of this past weekend's explosion of murder and mayhem in the city were Chicago Public School students, although none of the incidents took place in school. Of the 38 victims of shooting and stabbing, nine of whom died, 13 were students, according to Chicago police.

The violence didn't end Sunday -- two teens were shot and two teens were stabbed, one of them fatally, Monday night.

With two months left in the school year, the 21 fatal shootings of young people is on pace to match last year's total of 24. That would mark the second year in a row of alarming levels of violence among schoolchildren -– in the previous two years (2004-2005 and 2005-2006), there were only eight and seven gun fatalities, respectively, according to Chicago Public Schools.

"In previous years, we didn't get into the double digits like this," said a spokesman for city schools. "Last year was an anomaly and this year seems to be at the same pace."

Teenagers in Chicago are 10 times more likely to be the victims of gun violence than Illinois youngsters living outside the city, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. And more than 650 of them were shot and killed between 2002 and 2006.

Until this fatal weekend, the murder rate had declined slightly, with 87 homicides during the first three months of this year, compared with 88 during the same period in 2007.

To highlight its new campaign to stem the violence, the newspaper printed its Tuesday front page in reverse, with the bold headline, "Stop the Violence."

The police blamed both gang battles between competing factions of the Gangster Disciples gang and the warmer spring weather for the uptick in crime.

"You just have too many guns, gangs, too may weapons out there," Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis told reporters, noting that murders usually peak in the summer and drop in the winter.

In 2005, for instance, 108 were murdered in June and July compared with 47 murdered in December and January.

"What we're asking parents to do is know where your children are," Mayor Richard M. Daley told a news conference. "It's going to be a long summer, and parents better capture the responsibility."

The surge in violence is especially confounding to criminologists, because the city is one of only two cities, along with Washington, D.C., in the country with a ban on handguns.

"For five years since they enacted the ban, they've made this effort to limit the number of guns available, but it doesn't seem to have an effect," Chicago Crime Commission President Jim Wagner told ABCNEWS.com. "It has not stopped gang members from getting their guns out of state and bringing them back in."

Amid Cops, Shots Ring Out

The recent outbreak of violence did not surprise veteran officer Ron Rufo.

Five weeks ago, he was stationed outside Crane High School, the scene of rising tensions, when a fight broke out. Despite the presence of dozens of police officers brought in to stabilize the situation, the incident ended in fatal gunshots.

"We saw a jacket fly in the air, and while we were going over there, about 20 yards away, we heard shots ring out," said Rufo.

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