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Drugs Fuel Murder Rate Worse Than 1920s Gangster Era

August 31, 1991

CHICAGO (AP) _ The city that gave the world Al Capone and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre is suffering a bloodbath that dwarfs Prohibition-era violence.

″The big change is that innocent people are being killed,″ said Bob Fuesel, executive director of the Chicago Crime Commission.

″It wasn’t that way before,″ Fuesel said. ″Gangsters used to just kill other gangsters.″

Police Cmdr. Robert Beavers, a 34-year veteran of the Chicago force, said the easy availability of automatic and semi-automatic guns has contributed to the increasing randomness of violence in recent years.

″Bullets have no one’s name on them,″ Beavers said. ″They start shooting, and there’s no telling what they’re going to hit.″

During the first eight months of this year, 606 people have been killed in Chicago, compared with 555 during the same period last year, police statistics show. There were 399 killed in 1928, at the height of the Prohibition era’s gangland violence.

The current murder rate, at about 33 victims per 100,000 people, is nearly triple the homicide rate during the Roaring Twenties.

People kill each other these days for many reasons, including love, money or anger, Beavers said.

″But on top of what we would call the ‘common’ homicides we have the ones caused by dope, expensive weapons, gangs fighting for different turf,″ he said.

″In Depression days, gambling was the big thing. During Prohibition, it was alcohol,″ Beavers said. ″Now it’s dope. They’re all underground economies.″

Among the most notorious of the Prohibition-era killings was the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. On Feb. 14, 1929, members of Capone’s gang, dressed as police officers, lined up seven members of rival George ″Bugs″ Moran’s gang and sprayed the men with bullets.

The following are some of the bloodiest and most shocking outbrusts of violence that have occurred this summer:

- On Aug. 21, 11-year-old Jeremiah Miggins, a minister’s son, was shot and killed in his neighbor’s yard in a burst of gunfire from alleged gang members.

Two of the men arrested for Jeremiah’s killings were already wanted by police in connection with the death of a 14-year-old girl killed when a playground was sprayed with gunfire.

- On Aug. 24-25, five people died in separate shootings on the city’s South Side. In one incident, witnesses told police that a man walked up to a man in his 50s, shot him point-blank in the head and drove away.

- Early Wednesday, two 18-year-old men were killed and a woman critically injured when a man with a semi-automatic weapon riddled their car with bullets.

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