Despite 'Chiraq' label, data show Chicago not even close to Iraq

ABC7 I-Team Investigation
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Where did the word "Chiraq" come from, and is it an accurate description of Chicago? The answers may surprise you.

The term "Chiraq" has become street slang for Chicago, coined to represent the city's thousands of annual shootings and hundreds of murders. And now with the Spike Lee "Chiraq" movie due for release in December, it is a name destined for acceptance: Chicago is like Iraq.

But as unacceptable as Chicago's current level of street violence may be to most people, according to the stats, the Iraq analogy is simply wrong.

The term "Chiraq" that producer Spike Lee has adopted as the name for his controversial film, is based on a single Iraq war statistic from 2003-2012. During that nine-year period, 4,265 citizens were killed in Chicago, which is nearly the number of U.S. soldiers who were killed in Iraq.

From that data came the first use we can find of the term "Chiraq" in 2010. It came from an unlikely source: the Chicago Police Dept. superintendent at the time, Jody Weis.

"We are not Chiraq. We are Chicago," Weis said in 2010.

The term gained traction and in 2013, gained a place in a Kanye West song. But instead of comparing battlefield deaths to street violence, if you look head to head, comparing Iraq civilian murders to Chicago citizen murders, it is a far different story; Chicago is no Iraq.

In that same nine year period when 4,265 citizens were killed in Chicago, there were almost 30 times as many citizens killed in Iraq. Last year, there were 459 murders in Chicago. In Iraq, there were more than 17,000. Last weekend in Chicago, there were seven murders. In Iraq, there were 103. And Iraq's murders have been doubling year to year, unlike Chicago's murder rate that has been cut in half since 1991.

But even on the day in 2010 that the term "Chiraq" was born, then Mayor Richard Daley said something that hasn't changed.

"Welcome to America. Americans kill each other, every day. We kill each other. Not in Afghanistan. Not in Iraq. In good ol' America," Daley said.

Daley was fired up back then after a one-day rash of violence that left seven dead and 18 wounded.

Weis said that he used the term "Chiraq" that day after hearing it from a police department colleague. He said it stuck in his head after a senseless shooting incident.
Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.