Chicago's record murder rate: Don't blame guns alone

Activists say gun control isn't the only thing needed to reduce deaths in Chicago; what they need are more trauma centers.

Story highlights

  • 506 people were murdered in Chicago in 2012, according to local data
  • Chicago's South Side has no Level I trauma center
  • Trauma centers significantly reduce the danger of death from gunshot wounds
On the same day Chicago police held a news conference to tout their improved murder rate in November, 15-year-old Porshe Foster got caught in the middle of deadly gang warfare.
It happed right before 9:30 p.m. November 26. The sophomore honor student had finished basketball practice and stood talking with friends in a neighborhood on the South Side of the city when someone shot about 20 rounds into her group.
One bullet hit Foster in her back.
There was a hospital only a few blocks away, but emergency services followed protocol. They took Foster instead to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, nearly 5 miles away. Advocate Christ is legally certified and better equipped to deal with trauma cases.
Although the experts say such Level I trauma centers, as they are officially known, give gunshot victims better odds, there are no such centers on Chicago's violence-plagued South Side -- a part of the city where some say they are sorely needed.
Foster didn't make it.
"It's more than sad; it's really crushing," said her cousin, Camiella Williams. At 25, Williams says, she's lost 20 people she's known to gun violence.
"In my family, we aren't bad young people," she said. "We were taught to go to school. We grew up in the church. My little cousin (Foster) sang in the church choir. She played volleyball and basketball. She studied hard so she could become an architect.
"Hers is basically the same story as what happened to Hadiya (Pendleton). The only difference is, Hadiya went to the inauguration before she was killed. What that proves to me is you can go to an event with the president, and even that doesn't keep you safe."
First lady Michelle Obama's attendance at the funeral for 15-year-old Pendleton, who performed at one of the events surrounding President Barack Obama's inauguration before being caught in lethal crossfire, brought national attention to the teen death.
As the president visits Chicago on Friday, he will talk with a city that's bucking crime trends. Nationally, homicides are on the decline, but not in Chicago. Some 506 people were murdered last year, according to local crime statistics, up from 433 in 2011. January already set a bloody record, with some 43 people killed.
Porshe Foster, 15, got caught in gang crossfire in Chicago in November.