why is there so much crime in chicago

The picture of Chicago in much of the country в and even in much of the Chicago area в is a city awash in blood amid a surge in murder and other violent crime. Is this a war-torn country? asked candidate
during a debate in September. Though the president-elect is famously prone to hyperbole, the perception has a real basis в a spike in homicides to a level not seen since the 1990s. The question is: Why has it happened? In an attempt to find answers, researchers at the University of Chicago Crime Lab have compiled a report, released Tuesday, with a wealth of data. One striking fact is that in December 2015, homicides were actually down from a year earlier. But the arrival of the new year flipped an invisible switch: Homicides in January 2016 soared by 67 percent over the previous January, and each month that followed in 2016 saw more homicides compared to the same month in 2015. By the time the year was over, Chicago had recorded 58 percent more killings than it had in 2015. The report says the increase is not unprecedented, and it left the homicide rate below what it was in the first half of the 1990s. Nor did it make Chicago the most dangerous city in America: Though the number killed here topped the charts, the homicide rate is lower than in smaller places such as St. Louis, Detroit and New Orleans. The sudden climb is comparable to what occurred in 2015 in Baltimore, Milwaukee and Washington, D. C. What makes Chicago stand out is that it has far more murders than the two largest cities, New York and Los Angeles, combined. What's going on? The mayhem has left much of Chicago untouched. Of the 77 community areas, the crime lab report says, 31 saw either a decrease in homicides or no increase. Five neighborhoods в Austin, Englewood, New City, West Englewood and West Garfield Park в accounted for nearly half of the increase. It's often assumed that teenage gang members are behind it all.


But the researchers found that the average age of those arrested for a homicide or shooting was 26, and the percentage with a gang affiliation fell to 67 percent from 73 percent. It's not hard to come up with theories to explain the epidemic. But the U. of C. experts debunk many of those commonly heard. They note that the weather wasn't appreciably warmer, poverty and racial segregation didn't deepen and illegal guns didn't suddenly become more available. The jump in homicides did follow close behind several notable events: the release of the video showing the police fatally shooting Laquan McDonald, the launch of a Justice Department investigation of the Chicago Police Department, a new policy on street stops resulting from a city agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union and a decline in the number of stops. Any or all of these may have had an effect, by emboldening criminals and causing cops to go fetal, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said. But a healthy skepticism is in order. The McDonald video was shocking. But in 2014, New York had the video of a cop putting a chokehold on Eric Garner, who died as a result, and New York's homicide rate continued its long decline. Chicago police stops dropped by 80 percent from November 2015 to January 2016 and remained at that level throughout 2016. But New York police, under a federal court order, cut the number of stops by 97 percent from 2011 and 2015 with no ill effects. And Chicago cops were aggressive enough last year to confiscate more guns than they had in 2015. So the study leaves the most important question в how to reverse the trend в unresolved. Its authors say they stand ready to help policymakers, nonprofits and others apply the data to drive solutions. What can be said with some confidence is that better relations between police and residents of the most crime-ridden communities would foster more cooperation and less conflict, which in turn could help stem the violence.


Whatever other changes are needed, that one should be a high priority. Join the discussion on Twitter @ and on. P Depending on the report, Chicago s police department is about 1,000 officers short of authorized strength and is facing a large number of looming retirements while few new recruits are brought in due to budget constraints. This clearly has had an impact. However, NYPD has also seen a decline in the number of officers without this effect. New York has made headlines with controversial, but apparently effective, tactics like the so-called stop and frisk policy. P The city hasn t hesitated to defend these, even in the face of. Los Angeles has made huge strides in moving past its Detective Mark Furhman era reputation to build bridges to minority communities while Chicago has spent years and millions of dollars ignoring and defending officers who. New York and Los Angeles also have more experience with statistically driven policing than Chicago. P Mayor Daley hired Jody Weis from the FBI as police superintendent, but neutered his ability to run the department by. P Similarly, Rahm Emanuel, a fan of centralized control, has been heavily involved in driving major decisions like. It s not clear whether police decisions have been driven by purely professional crime fighting concerns or, as in likely given the city s culture, political considerations. Both New York and Los Angeles saw the start of their major successes against crime under the leadership of William Bratton. Los Angeles in particular was extremely smart to go hire him after his success in New York. While other cities have experienced murder declines, often with similar strategies, they are not places of the same scale, demographic diversity and political complexity of New York and LA. Perhaps Chicago should have spent whatever it took to get Bratton as police superintendent, though whether Bratton would have been willing to come into a place with such a history of political meddling with the police is uncertain.


Local and federal officials had great success taking out the leadership of many of the city s gangs. The result has been significant gang fragmentation and a lack of hierarchical control over the rank and file that. Few analyses of Chicago s murder problem focus on the city s very poor demographic performance. P New York City and Los Angeles are at all time population highs. Other urban areas like Boston and Washington, DC have started rebounding from population losses. However, Chicago lost a stunning 200,000 people in the 2000s and now has a population rolled back to levels not seen since 1910. P Loss of population in many neighborhoods has had many pernicious effects, including a loss of social capital (notably middle class families), loss of businesses due to loss of customers, and a diminished tax base. P It s hard to maintain social cohesion in the face of both extreme poverty and population decline. P Similarly, the Chicago region had the worst jobs performance of any large metro in the US during the 2000s, which couldn t have helped. Chicago s high rise projects like Cabrini-Green and the Robert Taylor Homes were yesterday s national shame as hotbeds of crime and the killing of youths. Chicago was one of the most aggressive demolishers of these, with all of the high rises effectively destroyed. While this perhaps reduced localized crime, it destroyed the only homes many people had ever known, and, like depopulation, destroyed significant social capital and possibly simply redistributed and dispersed crime, as some. PNew York s public housing is hardly problem free, but NYC Ptook a very different approach,. P It s hard not to speculate on what this has meant to the trajectory of crime in those two cities.

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