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“Murder Neighborhoods,” not “Murder City”

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013

* Chicagoan’s probably already know this, or at least feel this, but out of staters, suburbanites and Downstaters who don’t spend much time in the city and who rely mainly on news reports probably don’t. The city’s murder problem is highly localized

Over the last few years, violent crime in Chicago has made international headlines. Though the city as a whole has seen a significant drop in crime since its early-nineties peak, analyst Daniel Hertz has demonstrated that significant areas of the West and South Sides actually experience more murders than they did even at the peak of the crack epidemic.

Unlike New York, where former war zones such as the South Bronx have made radical improvements in safety, many of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods have only gotten worse.

Meanwhile, gentrified North Side areas are safer than New York City.

More here.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - RonOglesby - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 9:56 am:

    What else is there to say. They’re right. I bet you could see this same types of data in other cities as well. NYC is interesting because of its results and is questionable police practices, but I would love to see the greater LA area.

  2. - Downstate - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 10:05 am:

    The incidence of murder is increasing in Central Illinois, as well. But almost, without exception, nearly all the violence can be attributed to the breakdown of the family unit.

    It seems cliché to say, but focusing on strengthening family units, can only help.

  3. - Nosmo King - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 10:06 am:

    I believe the Chicago Police Department is doing all it can to stem the murders wherever they are. I also believe one murder is too many.

    But I have to ponder what would the response would be if the murders were happening in the Loop or Mag Mile on a daily basis? Or Lincoln Park, Beverly, or Wrigleyville for that matter.

    I was under the impression that the murder rate was much higher and geographically more wide spread during the Capone/Prohibition Era.

  4. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 10:06 am:

    The questionnable police practices were not commited by rogue cops as RO seems to suggest. A stop and frisk law allowed the PD to conduct the searchs. What has been posted here is that few of those stopped actually had guns on them and it appears that the crime wave had already peaked when the law went into effect. It would be nice to know just what went on in the S Bronx. It would be nice if that could be copied in Chicago.

  5. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 10:10 am:

    Great stuff. There is some intelligent substantive reporting on this subject — not that you’d know it from the TV talking heads or Usual Suspect misanthrope columnists.

    This pretty much sums up what many of us have been trying to point out for some time:

    –So: Next time you hear someone talking about “record violence” in the city, tell them that actually, murders are down almost 50% from twenty years ago. And then tell them that what’s really alarming is murder inequality.–

    Red Eye tracks every homicide in the city and breaks them all down. Real heavy-lifting reporting, not ignorant yammering.

  6. - Ray del Camino - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 10:12 am:

    Let’s keep our eyes on rising star Daniel Hertz. Sharp analyst, good writer. This ought to go a long way toward changing the narrative on Chicago crime.

  7. - walkinfool - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 10:13 am:

    Really good reporting.

    Safe getting safer, worst getting relatively worse. Sounds like the country overall economically.

  8. - Amalia - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 10:16 am:

    everyone except much of the media and flame throwing activists knows these facts. the question is what to do about it. when there is support of evil doers from too many in the community where violence occurs, or silence, things will not get better. spend time at court and you’d believe that everyone’s son is a good boy. it’s just not possibly true.

  9. - Leroy - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 10:32 am:

    I’d like to see a 10 year study on Cook and on Illinois as a whole.

  10. - ZC - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 10:38 am:

    Sounds like a pretty good rationale to redraw police district lines. Oh wait. Any way to get a lawsuit to force the city to do that?

  11. - Grandson of Man - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 10:42 am:

    “murders are down almost 50%”

    Homicides have been decreasing steadily since around 1998, with a few spike years, like last year. This year homicides are down compared to last year.

    “Red Eye tracks every homicide”

    Great link, thanks!

    In my neighborhood, gang graffiti goes up, but it comes right down. Neighbors don’t waste time in getting it removed. Gangbangers pass by and tag buildings, but thankfully they don’t loiter or hang around on corners.

  12. - langhorne - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 10:55 am:

    years ago a cop i asked a cop in cincinnati if it was safe to take a walk around the block. he said two sides of the block were pretty ok, and two sides not so much, but go ahead if i wanted to be a “volunteer victim”. i declined.

    excellent story. the problem is, so many of the residents have no choice about where to live. they are stuck in the war zone.i feel sorry for the good people who just want to live, work, shop and go to school in those neighborhoods.

  13. - Neighborhood Watch - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 11:10 am:

    The observation is true. The murders are largely confined to the South and West Sides. The negative impact on the North Side and elsewhere is that, due to Emanuel’s steadfast refusal to hire more police officers, is that the CPD is reassigning police to the hot spots and many districts have been depleted. Property crimes are up since the thieves and burglars know that there are less police patrols in middle class areas of the city now. Chicago is also burning through lots of overtime to keep police working the high crime areas. At some point, it seems to make more sense to hire more police officers rather than paying overtime.

  14. - Bill Wick - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 11:19 am:

    The murder problems may be highly localized, but they are not contained to just a small handful of neighborhoods.

    Gangbangers are mobile nowadays, and if they don’t have their own set of wheels, they will jack some for the night and spread their mayhem through out the city, like a cancer.

    I’d also be careful about using sources like the Red eye, because they report about a week late using the stats on Clearpath, where murders get reclassified as accidents and such other smoke and mirrors.

    There are other independent sources that keep pretty good tabs on what kind of criminal activity is going on in the city. For example, if you Google a blog called crime in Chicago 2013, you will see they reported murders when the Red eye claims there were none.

    While some neighborhoods in Chicago are clearly safer than others, that can change overnight as we can see from the reports on these other watchdog sites.

  15. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 11:24 am:

    –It would be nice to know just what went on in the S Bronx. It would be nice if that could be copied in Chicago. –

    There are pockets of prosperity in the Bronx, but South Bronx is still a very violent crime-ridden area. They close the bars around Yankee Stadium an hour after the games are over and everybody hustles to the B Train back to Manhattan.

    The biggest changes have been the gentrification of Manhattan, which is becoming an island of millionaires outside of parts of Harlem, as well as Brooklyn, with its easy access to lower Manhattan.

    Chronic poverty is being pushed out further from the city core, as it is in Chicago. In other words, New York’s problem becomes Newark’s problem.

  16. - Lakeview res - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 11:25 am:

    Along with Neighborhood Watch’s comment, I’d add that in the Lakeview area of Chicago, property and violent crimes have increased this year. Fewer CPD officers are available to perform all necessary police functions. CPD runs out of police officers to respond to calls every weekend night and goes into a Radio Assignment Pending (RAP) status. During RAP, 911 callers may not have a police response for hours. A corollary is that by the time an officer responds, a victim or suspect will have left and the crime will not be assigned a case number, thus resulting in a seeming appearance of crime reduction in these areas. A decent tracking blog on the subject is

  17. - OldSmoky2 - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 11:27 am:

    Hertz raises valid points, for sure. Emanuel’s all about the political equations, i.e., figuring out which voters he needs and keeping his donors happy. The overall good of many city neighborhoods is far down the list of concerns. That said, his police strategy all over the city is a massive failure. It’s not just that he’s failed to follow through on his campaign promise to bring the Police Department up to full staffing. Beyond that, he’s drastically reduced the number of police officers, even in the so-called “good” neighborhoods. Night after night, 911 calls go without responses for hours because there are no police to respond to them. Day shift officers often spend their mornings following up on calls about muggings and robberies that came in hours before they came on duty. Meanwhile, tax dollars that should be paying for police and schools continue to be siphoned off to TIF projects that benefit the politically connected. And most aldermen go along because they get to dole out some of those TIF dollars to their friends, too.

  18. - RonOglesby - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 11:28 am:

    But I have to ponder what would the response would be if the murders were happening in the Loop or Mag Mile on a daily basis? Or Lincoln Park, Beverly, or Wrigleyville for that matter.

    If murders were happening there the police would have much better information and access to witnesses. Increased solved murders would remove murders from the street and potentially provide a disincentive to that crime. Unfortunately where most of these crimes are committed a large percentage of the population will not talk to the police even if they know something.

  19. - RonOglesby - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 11:29 am:


    The questionnable police practices were not commited by rogue cops as RO seems to suggest.

    I did not suggest that. I stated there were questionable police practices (such as stop and frisk). That is not rogue at all. that is public policy in NYC.

  20. - TJ - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 11:37 am:

    I’ve said this many times, but the problem with Chicago’s crime is that it’s TOO localized.

    Now, let’s absolutely be clear…. I am not saying that it’s a bad thing that there are so many safe and great neighborhoods on the North Side, in the Loop, and in the Near South and West Sides. Far from it, those areas are the reason why Chicago’s a phenomenal city to live in, visit, work in, and play in.

    However, that stark divide, between the crime-ridden areas and the relatively safe regions also cuts back on the overall impetetus to try to reduce the horrendous murder rates. You could live and work your entire life in the city of Chicago and never have a need to so much as to drive through a heavy murder area a single time. For many, the vast majority of murders might as well take place on the other side of the planet versus just a few miles away.

    As a result, there isn’t nearly as strong of a public pushback to try to reduce murder rates as would obviously be the case if there was more bleedover throughout the city.

    And, again, let me be clear…. I am not bemoaning the safety of the good neighborhoods, I’m just pointing out that the segregation of the crime rates is a reason why there isn’t more of a public outcry to try to fix the city’s murder blight.

  21. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 11:38 am:

    –If murders were happening there the police would have much better information and access to witnesses.–

    Everybody knows who did it in the ghetto?

    I live in a solidly middle-class suburban neighborhood. Off the top of my head, I can think of five unsolved murders over the last seven years or so, one of them a my daughter’s friend’s father.

    I don’t know who did them. There’s no chat in the neighborhood as to who did them.

    I think what the original poster was trying to communicate is that if there were high numbers of violent crime in wealthy neighborhoods, more resources would be devoted to stop them.

  22. - Mason born - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 11:44 am:

    @Ron O

    Usually i agree with you but blaming the crime on the residents who choose not to come forward is a bit unrealistic. The Police mean well don’t get me wrong but the residents of that neighborhood have to live there. So “snitching” is not something to be done lightly. Would you be willing to place your children and your wife in danger in order to solve a murder? Not danger from some faceless criminal but danger from the criminal groups your children walk by every afternoon on their way home, groups with members your wife sees at the convenience store, or your neighbor. Would these people help things by talking sure but do you really blame them for not??

  23. - Grandson of Man - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 11:51 am:

    “Not danger from some faceless criminal”

    I agree. It’s much easier said than done to snitch on violent crime organizations. Who wants to be a martyr for a nearly-unsolveable problem that takes organizations and different people just to reduce?

  24. - RonOglesby - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 12:24 pm:

    @ word and Mason

    I am not BLAMING crime on the no-snitch environment in these areas. I am pointing out that crime is worse because of it. the murder clearance rate in Chicago is like 25%. Meaning 75% of those murderers are walking around free. Not locked up.

    My point was that when people point out that a murder is more likely to be solved on the north side and that it would be solved quickly, it is often because the people in those neighborhoods are quick to talk to the cops and give any info they have. This is not so in these other neighborhoods.

    To ignore the distrust of the police in these neighborhoods and the impact that has on actually solving crimes and locking up those responsible for the crimes is not a viable option. When 75% of murders are unsolved it is reasonable to assume there are a large % of murders walking around the same neighborhoods. Do we not think that has a big impact on the number of murders?

  25. - reformer - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 12:39 pm:

    the no-snitch rule

    How often do cops turn in their colleagues who violate policy or law? Are residents of poor neighborhoods supposed to take greater risks to ID bad guys than those who are paid to enforce the law?

  26. - Mason born - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 12:53 pm:


    –Do we not think that has a big impact on the number of murders?–

    Absolutely it has a huge impact. The problem is that unless you can change the paradigm it’s not going to stop. Would it be nice if people lined up to be witnesses? Absolutely but until they feel safe to do so it isn’t going to happen. I do not blame them.

  27. - Grandson of Man - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 1:22 pm:

    There is a dilemma to me, because if a neighborhood, city, county, state and country can’t stop violent crime, it’s far too much to ask individuals to risk their lives to do it. At the same time, if individuals don’t cooperate with law enforcement, a key component in crimefighting becomes lost. Still, I don’t blame individuals in gang-infested areas for not turning in violent criminals when there’s a real chance that retaliation will occur. This is a problem that needs to be handled by a neighborhood, city, state, anti-violence group, etc.

  28. - Fed up - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 3:29 pm:

    I think what the original poster was trying to communicate is that if there were high numbers of violent crime in wealthy neighborhoods, more resources would be devoted to stop them.

    You are absolutely wrong. Englewood has more police resources devoted to it than the whole city of Naperville, and more resources than most downstate counties. The 007 district in Chicago Englewood has more officers and specialized units than can be believed murders are still happening. At some point mom and dad (hopefully) need to get involved, know what your kids are doing who they are hanging out with. What’s going on in school what the grades are. Police, social workers, teachers are all well and good but at a certain point mom and dad are raising the offenders. It is always someone else’s problem and the offender was always just turning his life around when caught or killed.

  29. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 3:34 pm:

    Fed Up, I don’t get your point. Why are Chicago police supposed to be in Naperville?

  30. - Fed up - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 3:46 pm:

    Word plenty you don’t get. Chicago can put all the resources possible in englewood murders still happen. Until mom and someday maybe dad get involved crime will still be higher. Just like the best teachers won’t make a difference if parents aren’t involved no matter how many resources you put in an area it won’t make much of a difference unless families decide to make a change.

  31. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 3:52 pm:

    Fed Up, we can always count on you for the One Right Simple Answer to everything.

  32. - crazybleedingheart - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 3:52 pm:

    Dear Fed up,

    Come on over to Mich Ave sometime. Then, please, tell us more of your fascinating theory about Englewood and “all the resources possible.”

  33. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 4:14 pm:

    More succinctly, according to that piece from the National Institute of Justice: “There is no single cause of youth violence, but when there is a common factor that cuts across different cases, it is usually some type of family dysfunction.”

    Though I personally do not think “parenting” is enough to describe and explain what is transpiring on the south and west sides of Chicago.

  34. - Fed up - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 4:44 pm:

    Yes Michigan ave has some police on the corners since wilding and apple picking have become sports, they don’t have narcotic teams, gang teams, gun teams, saturation teams and beat and rapid response officers to go along with VRI patrols and recruits assigned to foot patrol. Englewood has all that plus fed task forces, and county and state officers helping. Word I don’t think any one thing is the answer but what I will say is murderous neighborhoods in Chicago aren’t short of police resources

  35. - Elder - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 7:41 pm:

    Daniel Hertz is around 26, and this is one of the best analyses I have read. How often do you read an analysis, and actually learn something other than some person’s opinions? Excellent work.
    Daniel’s dad is a Springfield type for AFSCME, and his mom runs a community organizing network. And today I am sure that they are both very proud!

  36. - RNUG - Wednesday, Oct 30, 13 @ 9:47 pm:

    Very good analysis and reporting. Had to take a fair amount of work.

    In his story, Daniel Hertz started to imply that that the safe districts got “richer” and the unsafe districts got “poorer” but also stated that he didn’t have the data in front of him.

    Would be interesting to follow that thought and pull together economic data by district and see how it overlays. Not sure how you could get that data short of state tax returns … maybe census data could serve as a proxy of a sort?

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