A long, unseasonably warm weekend is ahead for Chicago neighborhoods that already are coping with levels of violence more common to the warmer months of spring and summer.
Forecasters are calling for a sunny weekend, with temperatures hovering in the 50s and possibly hitting the mid-60s through Monday’s Presidents Day holiday — a weekend that comes after a week that already has seen 13 homicides, including the deaths of three children under 13.
The correlation between warm weather and violence has been documented by criminologists — though the extent and cause of the connection is debated — and the city so far this year has already seen 77 murders, trailing the pace of 88 during the same span last year. In both 2015 and 2014, there were two murders over the Presidents Day weekend.
Anthony Brown, owner of Debo’s Towing, said warm weather and violence go hand in hand in his experience — and his experience with Chicago violence is extensive.
In the course of two decades of driving the streets of Chicago’s troubled neighborhoods for tows, lockouts and jump-starts, the Englewood native said he has been shot 11 times by would-be robbers.
“In the summer, I have to duck down behind my truck for cover all the time,” Brown said Thursday, as he looked ahead to the weekend.
“When it gets warm, people are shooting. In Chicago, 60, 61, 62 degrees, that’s hot to us. And the kids will be out of school,” he said. “Usually, winter is pretty quiet. Not this year.”
The long weekend last year saw seven people killed citywide, marking a pace that led to the city’s highest murder total since the late 1990s, despite temperatures as low of 4 degrees.
Chicago Police spokesman Frank Giancamilli said Thursday the department deploys officers based on a statistical model that includes data on existing gang conflicts and historical crime patterns, not the weather. Additional officers will be assigned to handle protests downtown that are set for Sunday, but the extra staffing should not affect operations in neighborhoods, Giancamilli said.
LeVon Stone Sr., program director for the anti-violence group CeaseFire, said the organization is not bracing for a surge in violence — if only because the number of killings so far this year are already high.
“We’ve been seeing summer [shooting] numbers all year. You can’t look at this being about the weather,” Stone said. “Unless there is a drastic change, I don’t think you can look at this weekend being any different, whatever the weather is.”
Waiting for the bus on South California Avenue after classes at Catalyst Maria Charter School in Marquette Park Thursday, sophomores Bryson Causwell, Rayonna Caffie and Denesha Johnson were of divided opinion on their weekend plans.
Caffie and Johnson plan to be out and about; Causwell plans to stay indoors.
“Too risky,” said Causwell, 15. “I say, ‘you only live once,’ but that’s for other people, not me. But really, you could be in your house and get shot. There’s babies getting killed these days.”
Caffie said she wouldn’t let fear of violence keep her indoors.
“I’ll still be outside,” she said, offering another reason for Causwell’s more cautious attitude. “His mom is just real strict.”
Brown, the tow truck driver, said he won’t take the weekend off either.
“I work seven days every week,” Brown said. “You can’t be afraid. A man who’s afraid, don’t get paid.”