Chicago’s Gang Violence Triggers Facebook’s ‘Safety Check’ Alert System

Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP
Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP

Gang violence is apparently so bad in Chicago that Facebook’s “safety check” alert system had spread across the city after a recent shooting incident.

Facebook’s “safety check” system is set up for Facebook users to tell family and friends that they are safe during natural disasters or terrorist attacks. But this week, the Facebook safety check system was triggered in Chicago by a shooting that ended in three deaths, one an innocent bystander.

According to a report by Chicago Magazine, after an early morning shooting in the city’s strife-torn Back Of The Yards neighborhood on the city’s Near South Side, alerts began to ping on the phones of Facebook users across the city.

The shooting, which occurred in the 800 block of West 50th Place just after midnight on Thursday, included two victims. But a 16-year old girl who witnessed the attack was so overtaken with the horror of her experience that she lapsed into an asthma attack that soon took her life, meaning three deaths resulted from the same incident.

It isn’t known exactly how this crime spurred the safety check system, but a nearby Facebook user seems to have posted that he was safe and not involved in the shooting, and it wasn’t long until friends of friends began pinging their own statuses, one after another.

Facebook told the magazine that the alerts are “community-generated,” but this seems to be one of the first times that a crime triggered the system which has usually been used for earthquakes, fires, heavy storms, and tornados, as well as terror attacks.

According to Facebook, similar crimes have also triggered the safety check system in cities in Texas and Canada.

One Chicago resident who received the safety check alert said he first thought that Facebook was making a statement about living in Chicago, “like gun violence is so out of control that it’s being considered a natural disaster.”

Gang warfare in the Windy City is at terroristic proportions, indeed, and it is not unusual at all for upwards to 50 people to be shot on any given weekend. But the bloodletting is a daily occurrence, and so far this year, there has been an incredible 2,365 shooting victims in the city, with 354 shot and killed.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.