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Today’s numbers

Friday, Dec 13, 2013

* Maybe the screaming headlines will finally begin to subside a bit. From the Daily Beast

Chicago logged 506 murders in 2012. That’s more than the nation’s two largest cities (New York and Los Angeles), and the number invited media attention that made people think that maybe Chicago, far from being a picturesque city for yuppies and tourists, was actually a good place to go only if you were looking to get shot.

With just three weeks until we close out the year, the homicide ticker is stuck on 401. That’s still almost a hundred more than New York, a city with over three times Chicago’s population, has had to date but it’s also the largest year-over-year drop in a decade, police department data show.


Homicides are increasingly clustered in a handful of police districts today compared with 20 years ago.

The divide is so stark that if the city were divided into three sections—the safest, the average and the most dangerous—Hertz writes, “In the early ’90s, the most dangerous third of the city had about six times as many murders as the safest third.”

“By the late 2000s,” he adds, “the most dangerous part of the city had nearly fifteen times more homicides than the safest third.”


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Jimmy - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:25 am:

    It would be interesting to overlap a school performance map over these three generalized safety areas and see what comes up. I suspect that the correlation will be an utter lack of hope in the most dangerous and under performing areas…

  2. - A guy... - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:30 am:

    A great city continues to suffer an image problem because of this. The concentration in those areas makes them virtually unlivable. Glad to see the drop, but we’ve got a long way to go.

  3. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:31 am:

    Thankfully tourists didn’t listen to media people. Chicago tourism had a great year last year, as far as hotel bookings, and it’s having a great year this year also.

  4. - Downstate Commissioner - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:32 am:

    Uh-oh. Rich should have banned gun control from this discussion…

  5. - wordslinger - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:40 am:

    Jimmy, rather than schools, I suspect housing and income would tell the tale.

    From the 90s to the burst of the housing bubble, there was an enormous amount of new, upmarket housing in formerly impoverished areas contiguous to the Loop — south, west, northwest.

    Further north, Rogers Park and even Uptown, to a certain extent, have gentrified.

    Despite the ignorant hysteria in recent years, Chicago’s overall homicide rate is about middle of the pack for urban America. But in impoverished neighborhoods, it’s off the charts.

    No matter where you are in America, high homicide rates and chronic poverty go hand in hand.

  6. - Anonymous - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:48 am:

    Jimmy, I agree completely. Schools are easy targets when looking for someone to blame for any or all of our problems, but if you just disaggregate for poverty, the numbers for school success change dramatically. The failure of our social system and the polarization of our country by overzealous ultra conservatives groups and politicians and other people who just aren’t very smart has moved us to this position. We are all human beings first before being Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, atheist or any other religious affiliation. Before being a Republican or Democrat. Before being a conservative or liberal. We must reconnect as a community of people who are working to improve the lives of all people rather than just take care ourselves and other people just like us. In 2013 America, no child should have to go to bed hungry, afraid and cold because those of us that have so much already are unwilling to pay back to to our society through a fair system of taxation. If we could spend just a fraction of the money that we spend on developing ways to hurt and harm people on ways to make the lives of all people better, we would certainly be a better people. Amen and Happy Holidays to everyone regardless of political or religious affiliation.

  7. - Cassandra - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:52 am:

    Since I live next door to one of the most dangerous areas, I find these new statistics
    alarming, not encouraging. Not sure what the Mayor can do about it, but a more concerted crackdown on the thriving illegal drug trade might be good.

    Some good reporting has been done lately on this
    multibillion dollar business, with Chicago as a major transshipment point for billions in illegal drugs not only in the Midwest but across the country. Yet this is hardly mentioned by state and local politicians. The real problem appears to be Americans’ combined affluence and massive appetite for illegal drugs. These folks are by no means all helpless addicts. Many are probably our neighbors. So why is there such resistance to legalizing, controlling and taxing consumption that is going to take place anyway? Crazy. And great for the cartels. Bad for the neighborhoods and the neighbors.

  8. - Generation X - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:53 am:

    50,000 in IDOC

    10,000 in Cook County DOC

    Unfortunately reducing crime costs alot of $$$

  9. - Bill Cunningham - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:53 am:

    Thank God someone in the media is actually putting the numbers in historical context. Last year was an outlier — a one time spike that ran contrary to a long term trend of less violence. There were 970 murders in Chicago in 1974…in the early 90’s there were more than 900 homicides nearly every year — dwarfing last year’s much-hyped total of 506. By most measures, Chicago is safer today than it’s been in nearly half a century. Which is not to say all is well. The New York comparison is very troubling. But the context from a national media outlet is welcome news…how about our local news shops providing some similar perspective?

  10. - Robert the Bruce - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:54 am:

    ==No matter where you are in America, high homicide rates and chronic poverty go hand in hand.==
    How true. And how unfortunate that the crime concentration is getting worse - Daley and Rahm’s “containment” strategy is working for many of us, but working horribly for the poorest folks.

  11. - Hit or Miss - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:56 am:

    “I suspect that the correlation will be an utter lack of hope in the most dangerous and under performing areas…”

    I think this is an interesting statement. One needs to ask, however, why do people with “an utter lack of hope” use guns in such large numbers to kill people? What do hopeless people gain shooting someone? Is there any credible research in this area that would show or not show the correlation or do we have only conjecture and supposition?

  12. - PoolGuy - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 10:59 am:

    I just remember 800-900+ Chicago murders a year in the early 90’s when I moved there. that used to terrify me, even though I didn’t live in the neighborhoods where they happened.

    400’s are still horrible and senseless. at least they are going down. Kudos to New York and L.A. for being even lower with much higher populations.

    just did a quick google search and found that in 1992 Chicago, LA and NYC combined had over 4,000 homicides. for 2013 all 3 cities may be under 1,000 combined? hope they keep falling.

  13. - olddog - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 11:32 am:

    @ Jimmy 10:25 @ wordslinger 10:40

    I think you’re both right — when I was working with college admissions data, I used to argue the best predictors of academic success were economic and demographic data by census tract. Any correlation between school performance and homicide rates is indirect, but it’s real. The root cause in each case is poverty.

    Maybe if we kept that in mind, just maybe, we could get past the partisan bilge we read in the papers about underperforming public schools, teachers’ union bosses, standardized testing and “concerns about the rigor of instruction at a time when students are supposed to be preparing for tougher state exams.”

  14. - DuPage Dave - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 11:32 am:

    I agree with Cassandra on the relationship between shooting deaths and the drug trade. The concentration of deaths in specific neighborhoods can be traced for competition for millions of dollars in drug sales. These businesses can’t go to court to settle their disputes so they use other means. Just like during the period of alcohol prohibition 90 years ago.

    Any loss of life is regrettable, particularly that of “non-combatants” in the drug wars, but so long as it is mostly poor minority people killing other poor minority people I doubt that the government will take any significant action. I don’t see legalization happening in our state in the next decade or more.

    As far as a police crack down, we’ve been living with that for years. More people are in jail for drug offenses than ever before, serving longer terms, at a great cost to society. We can always arrest more people but who wants to pay for putting them in jail and keeping them there?

    Luckily the mayor has an answer for Chicago’s woes: more corporate welfare, more charter schools run by his pals, and a basketball arena for DePaul, which draws about 500 people to a typical game. Not to mention his union-busting effort to drive out jobs with good wages in Chicago.

  15. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 2:33 pm:

    Some crucial elements to this:

    - Cassandra wins a gold star. So do Jimmy, Wordslinger and virtually everyone else commenting on this complex issue.

    - To Cassandra’s point: Chicago Magazine, among others, provides fairly detailed coverage of the explosion in drugs recently flooding through Chicago. Short version? “Chapo” Guzman is on tape stating in 2006 that plans to make Chicago his “port city” in America. Just a few years later, and DEA agents are publicly warning that the Sinaloa cartel is on the verge of making this a reality.

    - While this is progress, there are still far too many young men and women being literally shot in the streets. Moreover, witnessing such tragedy at an early age does irreparable damage to the next generation of children who are growing up in this violence.

    - It is beginning to look like 2012 was an outlier, not the norm. The 436 homicides in 2010 and 435 in 2011 had many people concerned and devastated. While 2013 represents progress from 2012, it also represents a disturbing and long-term failure to get a grip on this problem.

    - Chicago police remain at some of their lowest staffing levels in decades.

  16. - shore - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 3:34 pm:

    It’s not hard to connect the dots on this problem. When the murder rate was soaring last year the cities major black politicians were MIA. I’m not sure Bobby Rush is even a functioning office holder anymore, who knows what Robin Kelly does. Danny Davis couldn’t trouble himself to vote yesterday, Rahm was the only guy last year on tv standing up and trying to do something.

    These voters in these areas need to hold their elected officials more accountable and to take more responsibility for their communities.

    Given the way Chicago’s mayor functions-with 2 eyes on his national press and political standing I thought those headlines helped the city by forcing him to act. If you’re Rahm Emanuel and you spend a good deal of your time on the coasts and with national folks hobnobbing and such-those people read Huff Post and watch cable news and the hits there can drive pressure back on Rahm .

  17. - wordslinger - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 3:45 pm:

    –One needs to ask, however, why do people with “an utter lack of hope” use guns in such large numbers to kill people? What do hopeless people gain shooting someone?–

    What the hell do they have to lose? Nihilism is hardly a new development in the human experience, in any culture.

    Taking the beating of marginalization in your own hometown every day is a tough cross to bear. Many have carried it and lived good lives, some cannot. But make no mistake, it is a burden.

    Since 2001, we’ve lost many years, spent hundreds of billions, and gave up the blood of our children because we’re all so scared of the boogey-men who hijacked three planes and knocked down a couple of buildings on one day when our guard was down.

    We’re so scared of them, that, by law, we embrace Big Brother and allow him to monitor our every communication, murder American citizens overseas, and kill civilian men, women and children as “collateral damage” to smoke some punks with drones in places most of us couldn’t find on a map.

    Meanwhile, if I want to find a terrorist, I can take a 10-minute walk into Columbus Park and cop some horse, courtesy of El Chapo.

    We have to get our heads on straight here. Stop being scared and get real.

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