Despite Brighter Stats, Gun Violence Continues to Trouble Chicagoans

Al Sharpton says he will move temporarily to Chicago to focus attention on the issue.

Posted: 07/02/2013 05:27 PM EDT

Despite the statistics that show a reduction in violent crime so far this year in Chicago, there is a persistent stream of gun violence that continues to concern residents in the nation’s third-largest city. 

Just last Sunday, a van filled with women and children was fired on with more than a dozen shots, injuring a woman and her two-year-old son. The two are still hospitalized, Chicago authorities said.

The injury of the mother and child are among roughly two-dozen incidents of gun violence in Chicago just since Friday night.

Sharpton, the civil rights activist and MSNBC host, said that he plans to move to Chicago temporarily later this year as a means of highlighting the level of gun violence in the city.

Sharpton said he was following an example set nearly 50 years ago by Martin Luther King Jr., who rented an apartment in Chicago and led marches. 

“We don’t have all the answers, but we need to raise all the questions publicly and consistently,” Sharpton told The Associated Press. “Consistent attention forces a consistent change.”

Chicago Police Department figures show a decline in the murder rate of nearly 30 percent in the first six months of this year versus the same period last year. But there is a pervasive feeling among residents that the level of violence has not changed materially.

“The crime rate is definitely still a concern because I can’t really tell if it’s really getting better,” said Bob Vernon, who works in the financial services industry and lives in the Bronzeville section on Chicago’s mid-South Side.

“I don’t feel more safe,” he said, in an interview with BET.com. “When the numbers come out, the city officials celebrate the fact that the murder rate is going down. But people are still getting injured by gun violence. You have to read between the lines and get to the heart of what’s going on. And it doesn’t make most people comfortable.”

Chicago has become a national symbol of the impact of gun violence in urban America, largely because of some incidents that received intense media attention.

The most notable was the killing of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old honors student who was shot in a Chicago park a week after she performed at President Obama’s inaugural festivities in January. The following month, 18-year-old Janay McFarlane was shot dead in North Chicago just hours after her younger sister Destini Warren, attended President Obama’s speech on gun violence.

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(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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