Chicago, where the All Blacks will be this weekend, has an unwanted reputation as the United States' 'murder capital' with soaring homicide rates this year.

"The Windy City" is the third most populous in the United States with more than 2.7 million people.

It is know for its skyscrapers, its geographical position on Lake Michigan, for being the hometown of US first lady Michelle Obama, the base for the Chicago Bulls in basketball and the Chicago Cubs in baseball.

And it is also known for its gun violence - the Chicago Tribune reports that 37 people were shot in the city just last weekend.


The Tribune says homicides are nearly 200 above this time last year.

With the Chicago Cubs hosting the World Series finals home baseball matches this week and through into the weekend when the All Blacks arrive, the city will be on high alert.

The Cubs have not won a World Series championship since 1905 and the city is flooding with fans hoping to see history made. Any victory parade in the city after the best-of-seven matches showdown would occur the week of the All Blacks' build-up to their one-off test against Ireland at iconic Soldier Field.

A high proportion of the murders have happened in the downtown city area where the All Blacks will be staying ahead of the match on Sunday week New Zealand time.

The All Blacks will be bussed between training venues but have a high number of public appearances to make for international sponsors AIG and adidas while in Chicago.

There have been at least 614 homicides in Chicago and at least 3560 people have been shot, according to the Tribune data. This time last year, there were 416 homicides and at least 2495 people shot.

The wave of shootings is mostly in black and Hispanic neighbourhoods. The body count outstrips that of New York and Los Angeles combined.

"Why do our communities look so different in one city?" said Diane Latiker, founder of Kids Off the Block, an anti-violence group in the South Side neighbourhood of Roseland. "When there's a crisis, there's money that is always found by all means necessary. This is a crisis."

Chicago is fighting an expensive two-front war - one on crime on the city's South and West Sides, the other to keep the junk-rated city afloat.

The city has 12,500 police officers, second only to New York, with 35,800 uniformed members. There are plans to boost numbers to 13,500.

The rates of homicides and shootings have soared almost 50 per cent this year and murders are on pace to top 600, the highest in 15 years.

Daily violence is a grim diversion from insolvency concerns. One local crime website keeps track of where homicide victims were shot - head, torso, limbs - and how often someone gets shot. That's about every two hours.

"The police have the relationship to crime that doctors and nurses have to illness and disease," said Richard Rosenfeld, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. "It's a mistake to assume that the crime problem is solely a police problem."

Chicago's surge in violence comes in the wake of the last November release of a video showing a white officer shooting Laquan McDonald, a black teenager, 16 times. The Justice Department started a civil-rights investigation of the police department in December, leaving the city vulnerable to even more costs.

Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St John Bible Church, in the crime-riddled Austin neighbourhood, said cops can't be held responsible for addressing generations of racial and social ills.

"The police can't just be thrown under the bus on this," he said. "The burden is on political leaders. The burden is on all of us."

- Washington Post, Herald Online