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What's more lethal in a rough Chicago neighborhood or being a soldier in Afghanistan?

Violence in some Chicago neighborhoods puts young men at greater risk than U.S. troops faced in Iraq, Afghanistan war zones, study finds

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

For more than a decade, some people have used the term “Chiraq” — a mashup of Chicago and Iraq — to describe a city whose violence makes some neighborhoods feel like battle zones.

Now, researchers say they’ve found that some parts of Chicago are even deadlier for military-aged young men than what U.S. soldiers faced in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The risk of a man 18 to 29 years old dying in a shooting in the most violent ZIP code in Chicago — 60624, a swath of the West Side that includes Garfield Park — was higher than the death rate for U.S. soldiers in the Afghanistan war or for soldiers in an Army combat brigade that fought in Iraq, according to a study published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open.

“You fight in an Army combat brigade, you come back and say, ‘My God, I was in the thick of it for a year, and look at the risks I faced,’ ” says Brandon del Pozo, a Brown University researcher and former New York City cop who worked with three other scholars to examine violence in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles. “In Garfield Park, these young men face those risks every single year. And the risks accumulate.”

Among men ages 18 to 29, the annual rate of firearm homicides in the 60624 code was 3.24 per 100,000 people in 2021 and 2022, the study found, compared with an annual death rate for U.S. troops in combat in Iraq of 1.7 per 100,000.

Even when the researchers expanded their sample to include Chicago ZIP codes ranked in the top 10% of violence, young men still faced a greater risk of dying than soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, the study found.

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