But even with that shared struggle, they’re often on their own. The Trace spent months analyzing police and homicide data, and speaking with residents directly affected by gun violence. We found that a state program designed to help victims and their families, for the most part, was failing to do so. Illinois’ Crime Victim Compensation Program, a decades-old effort designed to reimburse victims and families for injury-related expenses can take years to process claims.

Although violence is especially concentrated in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, people there didn’t apply for compensation at significantly higher rates. These inequalities worsened in 2020, as the pandemic’s first wave took mostly Black victims, hollowing out the same neighborhoods hit hardest by gun violence and the opioid epidemic. Even the city’s vaccine distribution effort left these same communities behind.

Most survivors and families of victims won’t see any form of justice. Data shows that the Chicago Police Department stops investigating about a quarter of nonfatal shootings after just 30 days, citing insufficient evidence. This worsened during the pandemic, with more than a third of cases closed within a month. Data also shows that while Black people are most likely to be shot in Chicago, they are the least likely to see an arrest made in their case.

Our series publishes this week, and will soon be available in Spanish, too. Here’s what we learned:

Part 1: In Chicago’s Roseland Neighborhood, a Mix of Grief and Perseverance

Part 2: Illinois Has a Program to Compensate Victims of Violent Crimes. Few Applicants Receive Funds.


The project was written and reported by Lakeidra Chavis. The photography is by Olivia Obineme, Ashlee Rezin Garcia, and Brian Rich. Illustrations are by Lydia Fu. Lakeidra Chavis and Daniel Nass provided data analysis. Daniel Nass also designed graphics and digital production. Gracie McKenzie helped develop community engagement. This series was edited by Joy Resmovits and Miles Kohrman.  

This project was produced for the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s 2020 Data Fellowship. The fellowship editor for this project was MaryJo Webster. These stories were published with The Chicago Sun-Times, Block Club Chicago, and La Raza Chicago