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Fear sells newspapers

Friday, Jun 10, 2011 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Kudos to the Tribune editorial board for this piece about all the “wilding” stories

The test for Emanuel and his top cop is to shut down the violence — and the fear-mongering — fast.

* But, wait, wasn’t this Trib editorial yesterday part of the problem? Yep

It feels like a variation on “wilding,” in which roving gangs assault strangers, seemingly for sport. In 1989, five young men were charged with raping a jogger in New York’s Central Park. Police said the attack was a case of wilding — though in the end the convictions were vacated.

The violence hasn’t reached that level in Chicago. It needs to be stopped before it does.

* That was a totally stupid historical analogy

The [Central Park] convictions were vacated in 2003. Another man already jailed for other crimes confessed to the attack. DNA evidence supported his claim.

* More

On April 19, 1989, Meili was raped and nearly beaten to death while jogging in New York’s Central Park. She suffered numerous injuries, including skull fractures and lacerations and severe blood loss. The five young men who were ultimately indicted, tried and convicted say they were coerced into a confession. At the time, police attributed the crime to marauding gangs of teens who engaged in what was termed “wilding.” Those who committed such acts became known as “wolf packs.” Once again, as in other points in American history, associations between animals and black criminality became part of the public conscience.

In 1989, Donald Trump paid $85,000 for full-page ads in four of the New York-area newspapers. Under the headline “Bring Back the Death Penalty,” Trump wrote, “They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes. They must serve as examples so that others will think long and hard before committing a crime or an act of violence.”

Members of the Central Park Five believe that Trump’s call for the death penalty — for minors in a non-capital case — only served to create a hostile media environment before the teens went to trial. A new book on the case by New York Daily News staff writer Sarah Burns, called The Central Park Five: A Chronicle of a City Wilding, suggests that Trump’s incendiary rhetoric was one of numerous factors which resulted in injustice for the Central Park defendants.

Some innoccent people are gonna get railroaded if we go back to those bad old days. Guaranteed. The crime wave is real and serious. But we absolutely cannot let newspapers dictate the climate.

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  1. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 6:58 am:

    Fear does sell newspapers. It also draws in viewers to the evening and nighttime newscasts who are all to eager to see some fire where there is smoke.

    As you pointed out the other day Rich, these aren’t “flash mobs” and even Chicago’s police superintendent corrected a WTTW Chicago Tonight reporter about such distinctions the other day. These groups are teenagers who are nothing more than hooligans with a corporate/gang mentality. The individuals can cede responsibility to groupthink and rationalize crime all in the name of fun or seeing what they can get away with. At the same time, established gangbangers are able to use groups of teens to do these kinds of things as part of initiations.

    I might feel a little empathy for the media in this case if they were to report on attacks like these that happen everyday in Chicago in neighborhoods that aren’t downtown or the near northside. In fact, several years ago driving on the southwest side I saw an attack similar to the ones that are working the press up now. I called the Chicago Police and never heard a peep about it on the newscasts nor did I see the papers dish out ink.

    Thank you Rich for keeping perspective in spite of the “mania” (Garry McCarthy on Chicago Tonight) overtaking other media.

  2. - wordslinger - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 7:40 am:

    The fear and news value stem from the location of the attacks.

    You can bet for the rest of the summer that Streeterville, the Mag Mile, Gold Coast, and the beaches are going to get a lot of extra attention, and groups of young black men will be rousted with regularity.

    Meanwhile, in New York the other day, they had a teen mob action with a death and others shot. But the teens were shooting each other, and it was on Brighton Beach, not in Central Park, so no big whoop.

  3. - Wensicia - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 7:47 am:

    I find it interesting the definitions of these attacks are based on geography, type of victim. While violence in other parts of the city get barely a mention.

    I’m particularly offended by the term “flash mob”, as if this is a social network fad. No, this is groups of young thugs bullying their way through crowds, and they’re doing it for fun, because they can. The loot they may gather is just bonus material.

  4. - Excessively Rabid - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 7:54 am:

    This kind of thing is why I finally threw in the towel and joined the death penalty opponents, at least when it comes to Illinois. Somebody needs to be executed, never mind if they’re innocent.

  5. - Wumpus - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 8:15 am:

    Fear mongering, not quite sure if I buy into that as this is how the media acts. You’ve got mobs of youths roaming the streets/cta and robbing/beating people and this is fear mongering? Well, people are afraid all around. The only ones not afraid are the ones committing these crimes and Wumpus, cause Wumpus fears no kids. If they came at Wumpus, he’d take off his belt, have them line up and get their respective butt whooppins!

    When crime hits yuppies, that is when it gets reported. I know chances of being attacked are very minute, but this is no different than the shark attacks, west nile, kidnappings etc, that it will not likely happen to you. But the legitimate fear is scaring the heck out of people. I know peoplel who are not letting their kids go downtown or to the beach out of fear of them being falsely accused.

    Nice to see that Trump is still a d-bag after 22 years.

    Drudge’s little race war is going nicely.

  6. - MiddleClassChicagoan - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 8:31 am:

    Thank you Rich for this post. I think it’s important that we are critical of how the media covers events and how the media perpetuates and shapes our understandings of race and crime.

    The recent coverage of “crime mobs” and “wilding” reminds me of the Rogers Park “goonings” and “gooners” that were covered extensively from 2004-2007. In both the coverage of “wilding” and “gooning” the motive always given is - none. They are described as random acts of violence. When White youth shoot up schools the media does not label those acts as “random,” indeed they go out of their way to find a motive, laboring in their coverage to find the reason why these youth would act out - the music they listened to, bullying, video games, violence in the media, psychological problems, and on and on.

    Every crime has a motive and no violence is ever really random. If we want to put an end to “wilding”/”crime mobbing” we need to understand the real reason why it is happening.

  7. - Fed up - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 8:40 am:

    Defending the trib is something I will not do but for a long period these attacks downtown were ignored by the media. It didn’t start at north ave beach on memorial day. Many of the stories refuse to even mention the description of the attackers. Perhaps we should be concerned with roving bands of Amish or American Indian youth. It seems a certain part of the who,when, what, where and why is missing from these sotories. I don’t think anyone wants groups profiled but intentionally ignoring a part of the story in the name of political correctness is wrong.

  8. - Srsly - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 8:46 am:

    Newspapers likewise have a duty to inform it’s readers and the community of relevant events, which includes the unfortunate nature of crime (and sudden uptick of the same). Many local news outlets instead prefer to ignore these stories for a time, uncomfortably with the bleak nature of them and not wanting to reinforce narratives that they disagree with. Eventually, when the public safety concerns become too much, or when there are far too many witnesses in far too many public places causing far too much violence and/or theft, they begrudgingly report on these stories. But, when they do, they are all too eager to parrot the PC line offered by the powers that be, like how last summer the lakefront violence was the result of ’suburban’ kids who came downtown looking for trouble (quick! Let’s coordinate resources to deal with the Downers Grove South senior skip day). This phenonenon is not limited to crime reporting; this own blog’s responses to the biweekly threats of corporations to leave Illinois sounds like press releases from a IL Dept of Commerce flack.

    So what are we left with? Reluctant reporting and/or laughable excuses offered by the media as to the barest details of the events. The Billy Corgan brother story had wonderful details about what the assailants were wearing as they attacked him - but that was it. Let’s hope, for our sake, these criminals never change their clothes.

  9. - Fed up - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 8:53 am:


    When I read the drudge headlines about a week ago about all the ” urban violence” I had the same impression it was coordinated to start to unsettle white middle class America. Just as grouping a bunch of stories from the far reaches of the country together to give a false impression is wrong, so is giving partial stories of local news to keep your politically correct smugness

  10. - sad - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 8:57 am:

    And reporting their skin color would help you two super sleuths solve these crimes how exactly?

  11. - wordslinger - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 8:57 am:

    –Many of the stories refuse to even mention the description of the attackers. –

    The pictures of those arrested have been all over the news. The fact that they are black is obvious. That’s why the stories are so prominent; black youths attacking on the North Side. It doesn’t get a mention if it happens in Englewood.

    I don’t know that the particular attacks were racially motivated. However, like all big cities, Chicago does have a long, varied and diverse history of racially and ethnically motivated attacks in virtually every combination you can think of.

  12. - Jimmy CrackCorn - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:02 am:

    ==and the beaches are going to get a lot of extra attention==

    A friend went to North Ave. beach this week and was subject to a ‘cooler check’ by uniformed CPD. When asked when this started the officer responded, “Haven’t you heard? We have a new mayor.”
    Even though this is in part a response to ‘wilding’ and the insane hoopla that came with it, I must admit I support the ‘cooler checks’. For years now, the beaches haven’t been a place I would bring my young niece to, due to the high number of intoxicated teens.
    Unfortunately though, this will result in more man power being diverted from the high-crime neighborhoods that had made progress under Weiss and need every officer they can get.

    == like how last summer the lakefront violence was the result of ’suburban’ kids who came downtown looking for trouble==

    Let me assure you that assessment was/is accurate.

  13. - Srsly - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:07 am:

    Sad - who said anything about wanting to solve the crime? And who are you to decide what information is useful for downtown citizens so they may be on guard from similar attacks?

  14. - Fed up - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:09 am:

    You are correct about the photos and the history of racial attacks in Chicago. But let’s face it so called journalist are omitting parts of the story.
    Sorry to hurt your delicate senseabilites. Not my job to solve these crimes and do not support vigilantism but information should not be suppressed by journalists.

  15. - Jimmy CrackCorn - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:11 am:

    Mary Smich take yesterday on the race issue:,0,337913.column

    Key Passage:
    “‘People see it as a media conspiracy,’ he said of the decision to leave out their race. ‘It’s a media quandary.’

    Here’s the quandary, for editors, for cops, for all of us:

    Race alone doesn’t predict or explain behavior. Just because this mob was young and black hardly means that all young, black people in groups are a violent mob. Knowing the race of these attackers is no form of protection.

    And yet race is an aspect of what happened Saturday night”

  16. - Jimmy CrackCorn - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:12 am:

    Mary Schmich’s**

  17. - Colossus - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:13 am:

    I believe there has been some mentions of these attacks on HuffPo in their Chicago section and the main page, so Drudge isn’t alone in pointing these out. But I agree with Fed Up that Drudge seems to have actively been establishing a narrative intended to provoke discomfort and stoke the flames in the leadup to the shenanigans we will all be following with bated breath next year.

  18. - Srsly - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:13 am:

    Wordslinger- what if someone was not watching the evening news in the day or two before pressure was exerted to start softening the edges of this story? And why does someone have to read multiple accounts from numerous sources to piece together the basic details of this story?

  19. - wordslinger - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:17 am:

    As a public service, let me, from personal experience, tell you who to be on the lookout for:

    When they were younger, my (white) sons had their bikes jacked by older black youths.

    When I was a kid, I had my bike jacked by an older white youth (who’s since been in and out of prison all his life).

    A couple of years ago, my wife had her purse snatched by a Hispanic woman.

    And as anyone who has ever ridden Metra or the CTA after a Cubs or Sox game, or BluesFest or Taste of Chicago, knows, drunken, obnoxious, often violent fools come in all races, colors, creeds and genders, from every point on the map.

    So be on the lookout. For everybody.

  20. - Srsly - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:19 am:

    Anyone else find it ironic that Rich was belaboring the use of ‘fear’ to move newspapers, given his oh so measured and stoic reporting as to what would happen if the GA did not pass his beloved tax hikes?

  21. - Edge of the 14th Ward - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:20 am:

    Wordslinger makes a good point. The Tribune published mug shots of the three attackers who were arrested. I’m sure those photos made more of an impression on readers than a written description would have. It seems to me that anyone who’s clamoring to know the race of the attackers has an axe to grind. You know the race. You saw the photos. Why do you need it spelled out in an article that most people won’t read beyond the first paragraph?

    On a wholly practical note, if you have an iPhone, download Device Tracker or a similar app that will allow you to track your phone in real-time via GPS. Also, set a passcode for your home screen so a snatch-and-grab thief won’t be able to access your personal data.

  22. - Fed up - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:21 am:


    I actually like her explanation, however what other facts do journalist think the public doesn’t need to know. The trib is the same paper that went to court to unseal divorce records of jack Ryan thinking we all had the right to know what happened between him and his wife. They should report the news not censor parts of the story to make it more palatable.

  23. - Fed up - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:23 am:


    After the arrests of those 4 offenders the attacks didn’t stop so others might be committing these attacks.

  24. - Bemused - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:24 am:

    Like most institutions the MSM may have in the past been what it still likes to purport itself to be now. The corporate bottom line trumps most all else. So we get what news is deemed relevant by a media that seems to value most ad revenue.

    I like to read the newspaper and the local weekly. Problem is in most cases everything in them I have seen somewhere online a day or two sooner. The edge they had in past, being more indepth seems to have slipped.

    Anyway the real question is who’s interest is the MSM really serving nowadays.

  25. - Colossus - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:24 am:

    Speaking of fear selling newspapers/ratings/clicks, here’s something up on Drudge’s front page right now:

    CHICAGOLAND: Police warn of teen girls committing strong arm robberies…

    If you read the story, it’s a fairly common mugging report from the South Side, no one was hurt, yet somehow this is deserving of attention on one of the highest travelled news sites in the world?

    Answer: the STORY isn’t worthy of that level of attention, the HEADLINE that someone with an agenda can attach to the story is all that matters here. It’s the same sensationalistic dynamic that the local media is caught up in, only with much bigger stakes. I swear, every morning when I open Drudge I say to myself “Let’s see what threat to Western Civilization popped up overnight.”

  26. - Fed up - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:31 am:


    It does seem like a non story isolated to a small area. I wonder if the police feel they have to issue an alert for everything to make it look like downtown isn’t more important. Absolutely no reason for that story to go national.

  27. - Secret Square - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:33 am:

    The “media conspiracy” against mentioning the race of the suspects/arrestees/defendants in most criminal cases is nothing new. It’s been standard practice for years.

    Unless the crime in question is directly racially motivated, or a physical description of the suspect’s appearance is needed because they are still at large and the public needs to be on the lookout for them, why mention the suspect’s race? The litmus test is this: if the suspect/defendant were white, would there be a reason to mention that in the story? If not, then why mention race at all?

  28. - wordslinger - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:34 am:

    I truly don’t get the “media conspiracy” theory going on here. Who following the Memorial Day story didn’t know the suspects were black? Their mug shots were everywhere.

    For crying out loud, that’s why the story was so hot and has legs today — black youths attack on North Side.

  29. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:37 am:

    Does it even matter if the media is printing/saying the race of the offenders? Take this Wall Street Journal article for example where several commenters immediately restored to using the urban dog whistle.

  30. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:38 am:

  31. - Skeeter - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:45 am:

    “groups of young black men will be rousted with regularity”

    That’s not the case now and likely will not be. Streeterville is remarkably diverse. Northwestern Law and Med, along with Loyola’s campus just west of Streeterville, attract young people of all races. Suggesting that the students will become victims of a crack down is pretty insulting to the CPD.

    On the other hand, Streeterville has always served as a passage for gang members going from their own neigbhorhoods to the lakefront. I’ve never had any great problem distinguishing the young students from the young gang members and I don’t believe that the CPD will have a problem.

    CPD is very short staffed. They have made some questionable decisions in the past few weeks with regard to Streeterville/Mag Mile priorities (they were slow to figure out that the Chicago/State Red Line station is sort of the epicenter of all this). Still, the CPD does a good job and I don’t believe that the CPD will start rousting Northwestern Med students.

  32. - Wensicia - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:49 am:

    Is it the media stirring up fear or is it the mayor and new police boss struggling to define and address this new problem, while downplaying the beginning of these events? I can’t get the “media conspiracy” theory, either.

    We had the same problem in my far north suburb a few years ago. A group of youths assaulting pedestrians for no particular reason, they did it for sport, if you will. The police downplayed it until a homeless man was killed. I found out because a couple of the youths were my students, never saw them again after the arrest.

    I believe the intent was to prevent public panic. But the lack of warning for vulnerable citizens was wrong.

  33. - Dead Head - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:53 am:

    Fear sells everything. Remember back at the turn of the century? The world was going to end and you’d better stock uo on needed supplies. The morons went out and cleared the shelves. The same went for the, “Oil Crisis.” Anytime you want to sell a bunch of something, tell people they are going to have to learn to do more with less.

  34. - jerry 101 - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:55 am:

    This whole thing is really weird, and the attention can only be attributed to efforts by media outlets to fear monger in order to sell papers, drive page views, and to get people to watch the news.

    Muggings happen, even in “nice” or “safe” neighborhoods. Even in the Gold Coast/Streeterville/Mag Mile. Summer time always leads to an increase in crime levels. Bad economies always result in an increase in crime, but the likelihood of being mugged is still infinitesimal.

    Every time the newspapers or TV news sees a police report about a mugging in the Michigan & Chicago area, it turns into another one of these stories of roving gangs of young black kids savagely attacking someone and stealing their belongings.

    Just yesterday, a story about a guy having his IPod stolen on the redline was blown up into another one of these stories. Yeah, he did get beaten up. After he chased the thief off the train and found out the thief had a few friends. If he hadn’t decided that his IPod was more valuable than his personal safety, then he wouldn’t have gotten a scratch on him. There was another story about someone getting pickpocketed who (with his buddy) chased after the thief and the thief’s buddies. They started a fight and lost (2 against 3).

    These are just muggings. Getting mugged sucks, but its not the end of the world. Don’t carry around anything too valuable and don’t chase the mugger. Don’t be stupid.

    People get mugged in Streeterville and the Mag Mile. This ain’t new. Areas with lots of tourists are popular with pickpockets, pursesnatchers, and muggers. Tourists are easy targets, and they tend to carry a lot of money and other valuables (cameras and the like). People get mugged on the CTA as well, especially in the wee hours.

    I’ve lived in the city long enough that it’s pretty clear that this is nothing out of the ordinary. Except for the response of media organizations looking to boost sales.

    This freakout is all so silly.

  35. - Fed up - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 9:58 am:

    Secret square

    Many of the offenders in these attacks have not been arrested are still at large. So maybe the public should be aware/ look out for them. So by your standards the information should be given. I agree with skeeter that the management of the cpd seemed to be a step slow maybe a little less who you know and a little more what you know is needed in the CPD.

  36. - Way Way Down Here - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 10:01 am:

    North Avenue beach is the easiest beach to get to from the trains.

  37. - tberry - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 10:05 am:

    I love the liberal “logic”. If a group of applicants for firefighter jobs take a test and not enough Blacks pass it, it is “obviously” evidence of racial discrimination. But if there are a series of crimes where all of the victims are White and all of the perpatrators are Black, then there is no evidence of racial discrimination.

    Sticking you head in the sand won’t make the problem go away. No one is accusing all Blacks of being criminals but you can’t ignore the obvious racial aspects of these events.

  38. - just sayin' - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 10:20 am:

    All I wanna know is can we look forward to some Stones to close out the week from Rich? Some Street Fighting Man maybe? That would be sweet.

  39. - Been There - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 10:20 am:

    ===“groups of young black men will be rousted with regularity”===
    Take out the word black and I find nothing wrong with that statement. I don’t care if there is a group of black, white, brown or green young men roaming around any neighborhood, they should be rousted. We have all been there in our own youth. Large groups of kids roaming the streets should and always will be a target for the cops to roust. Trouble routinely follows when large groups are gathered together. Is that fair or even legal? No. But so what. They will grow up and get over it. My own kids have gotten into trouble by being in the wrong place at the wrong time because something happened while they were hanging out in large groups. Their lesson learned was to not be in that wrong place in the first place.

  40. - Jimmy CrackCorn - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 10:24 am:

    Sorry last comment on the beaches so we don’t get off track… I wish had seen it before my earlier post, but Don Terry in the NYT Chicago Coop had a piece on the Teen Troubles at the beaches. He also delved into the race issue that keeps coming up here and everywhere else with the wilding mobs.

  41. - Responsa - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 10:24 am:

    Many people are continuing to focus on the wrong thing–or on only one part of the thing (whichever part that may particularly resonate with them). But this is not a race story. Or a journalism ethics story. Or a new mayor feeling his oats story. Or an economics story. It is in fact, like most, a complex story that probably incorporates and is influenced by all those elements and many others as well.

    Unfortunately, the larger crime story is not fiction. It needs to be dealt with. It concerns actual events which have the potential to negatively affect lives, tourism, and Chicago’s image for months to come. If fear mongering in some quarters is making it worse and may even be encouraging some youths to try to get their 15 minutes of fame, that is terrible and inexcusable. Conversely, if seeking to minimize it inadvertently allows innocent students, cyclists, transportation riders, tourists, and business people to be hurt or terrorized that too is terrible and inexcusable.

  42. - reformer - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 10:30 am:

    Fearmongering can lead to a Bernie Goetz who whips out his handgun and starts blasting away at unarmed black youths who ask for money.
    The Central Park Five is a textbook example of false confessions. I don’t think the NYPD has yet to admit its responsibility and to recognize the railroaded men are actually innocent. Reminds me of the DuPage attitude about Cruz and Hernandez.

  43. - John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 10:30 am:

    >>>Street Fighting Man maybe? That would be sweet.

    Saturday Night’s All Right for Fighting.

  44. - Responsa - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 10:32 am:

    Thank you for your post. It’s a real world sanity check borne from your own real world experience.

  45. - Coach - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 10:48 am:

    I worked in a newsroom where the editors deliberately withheld a crime suspect’s race when the suspect was black.

    Mary Schmich’s column on this gave readers a vague sense of why newspapers do this, but I think she artfully beat around the bush (as is her style) and failed to just get to the basic rationale.

    The basic rationale, and was conveyed to me, is this: Newspaper editors feel that identifying crime suspects as black perpetuates and reinforces stereotypes about blacks disproportionately committing crime. And since the editors can reasonably argue that identifying the race in a story does little or nothing to help society solve that crime, they therefore believe they’re justified in simply omitting it.

    Yet, the same editors that insisted on this practice separately insisted that reporters go out of there way to recruit black and Hispanic sources for positive, non-crime stories (such as stories about business growth) in order to help bolster minorities’ positive image in the community. (The editors even pressured reporters to gather headshots of black or Hispanic sources so we could run those with the story to make it easier for readers to recognize we included those voices in positive stories.)

    You could say this is the media equivalent of affirmative action - help shield folks of color from negative stigmas when they commit crime, and help shine a positive light on them whenever possible in non-crime, positive news coverage.

    In the context of larger societal double-standards intended to help protect and advance people of color (it’s a hate crime when a bunch of whites beat a black kid, but not necessarily when a bunch of blacks beat a white kid), I suppose the media view is consistent and maybe even makes some sense.

    But the bigger problem with this policy of omitting race is that it allows the media (and its readers, and society, and elected officials) to avoid a deeper discussion about the root causes of crime and continuing plight of blacks (and Hispanics) in the inner city. The fact is that Chicago remains deeply segregated and the blacks by and large live in poor neighborhoods with shoddy economies, disastrous public schools, broken families, poverty, crime, etc. They simply lack the supports and positive reinforcements that many of us enjoy and take for granted.

    I don’t expect Rahm or his new police commissioner to give much public consideration to these deeper issues, at least not in the short term - not even now that the inner city crime previously confined to the south and west sides is now spilling over into downtown and the near north side. That’s not politically expedient. But if we’re all serious about addressing the sheer depths of crime over the long term, then at some point we need to focus the public conversation on the realities faced and experienced by the city’s have-nots.

    Unfortunately, I think the media policy of avoiding any mention of race - let alone deeper coverage about the city’s ills - helps enable us to put off that discussion just a little bit longer.

  46. - walter sobchak - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 10:59 am:

    Logic and good sense plays no role in the obvious causes and potential solutions to chronic inner city violence, anti social behavior, or helping ruined lives perpetuated by idiotic social welfare programs. My family’s history is no different than most: two cars stolen, a father in law mugged, two friends raped, and a baby sitter raped and murdered all by young black men. Yet, I am supposed to react neutrally to all young men, in groups or alone, one is equally as likely as the next to commit the above crimes. And, somehow the tortuous racial locutions of the media in always describing some perpetrators as white or hispanic, while others are merely ‘youths’ is the magic pill dispelling all stereotypes.

  47. - reformer - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 10:59 am:

    Coach: Thanks for your thoughtful and informative post. Racial segregation has completely fallen off the public policy radar screen. Candidate Rahm said it wasn’t an issue he intends to address. When liberal Dems won’t talk about a social problem, there’s no chance of doing anything about it.

  48. - plutocrat03 - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 10:59 am:

    Part of the problem of a crime of opportunity like this seems to be is that so many of us are carrying, cell phones, music players and portable computers which are quite valuable. The fungible nature of these types of items, coupled with our society’s attitudes towards property crime can result in an overwhelming temptation to grab what is cool and run.

  49. - 47th Ward - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 11:07 am:

    ===CPD is very short staffed===

    I’m not 100% sure of that Skeeter. I would argue that CPD does not want to alter its cozy beat boundaries, nor do the Alderman. The fact is that officers on patrol in my low crime neighborhood don’t want to be reassigned to Englewood or Garfield Park. I don’t blame them, but adding 1,000 more cops will cost $100 million per year. Redrawing the police districts to reflect the realities of 2011 makes more sense.

    I think CPD needs to look at itself and ask if they’re really about trying to combat crime or to make life easy for themselves. It’s a hard job and I have enormous respect for most officers, but driving around Lincoln and Damen in air-conditioned SUVs isn’t the best deployment of force.

    The counter argument, that once you move the cops, the bad guys will simply move into my neighborhood, is hypothetical at best. We won’t know until we try. But $100 million is a lot of money. Shouldn’t we try something else first?

  50. - Phineas J. Whoopee - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 11:22 am:

    This isn’t some bizarre phenomenon. It is a conscious effort to exploit a wealthy and easy mark. If these gangbangers attacked groups in their own hoods they would be shot to pieces.

    Better to go to the rich community. You get more loot, the victims don’t shoot back and the progressives start offering jobs and summer camp passes.

    It’s a pretty good strategy-if your an immoral criminal.

  51. - Robert - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 11:23 am:

    I continue to run along the lakefront path along North Avenue Beach in Chicago, and the reports of wilding, flash mobs, whatever you want to call it, have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, some crimes have happened, but it is a big city with a lot of people - the crime rate relative to the number of people on/near the Oak St/North Ave Beaches or the Mag Mile is still very small.

    What I have noticed this week is a greater police presence.

  52. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 11:28 am:

    @Srsly -

    I challenge you to point out one case of fear-mongering by Rich on the issue of the state budget. His reporting was factual and serious. Not once that I recall did he editorialize on the subject.

    @All -

    Groups of teens robbing people is not a new phenomenon. The only thing “new” and “newsworthy” about this story is the zip code of the offenses, as the Tribune piece concedes.

    “Why are bands of criminals robbing people on the Mag Mile?” everyone asks.

    “Why do bank robbers rob banks?” is my response.

    The sooner we stop viewing these robberies through a racial lens and start viewing them through a criminology lens, the sooner we’ll get to the problem.

    Here’s my take.

    Teens are robbing folks in downtown because that’s where you’re likely to find folks walking around with digital cameras, laptops, i-phones and iPads.

    They’re doing it mainly during daylight hours because that’s when you find people walking around with digital cameras, laptops, iPhones and iPads.

    And they’re doing it in “mobs” because using superior numbers to overwhelm your victims means you don’t need to worry about those nasty armed robbery charges.

    Whether they’re doing it for the loot, for thrills, or as part of a gang initiation I don’t know — although no one has made a concrete link to gangs yet, which makes that seem highly unlikely.

    It doesn’t seem like much of a score for loot, which makes me believe they’re doing it for thrills.

    The same reason suburban teens vandalize houses or break into country club swimming pools.

    The same reason rural teens steal their dad’s gun to do some target-shooting or go cow-tipping.

    The same reason bus-surfing was all the rage among Brazilian teens for awhile.

    My guess is these teens have been doing all kinds of crazy stuff in their own neighborhoods for years.

    Its just my theory, and it certainly not an excuse, and its certainly no dismissal of their crimes. But if you want to stop them, you need to understand not just the who, where and when…you need to understand the why.

  53. - Fed up - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 11:38 am:

    47 th ward

    I agree that the police beats need to be updated I’ve been told it’s been over 30 years since this has happened. However I don’t think this will solve the problem. A quick look at the cpd beat maps (available on line) shows that areas like englewood and garfield park have more beats and smaller beats than say Jefferson pk or Garfield ridge. Those areas already have more police service. Engelewood has more police assigned than Jefferson park yet it’s smaller and less populated. Yet if each ofc. Wrote a ticket to to someone, their would be more tickets written in Englewood and the sun times and tribe would be quoting the same ald. that demand more police in there community that the police are racist. I do believe cpd is short staffed and beats could be changed but until we fix the schools, kids having kids, lack of fathers and other social issues more police is just a band aid but a necessary one.

  54. - Jake L - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 11:39 am:

    Mary Mitchell’s article yday almost seemed gleeful that whites were finally facing what blacks do all the time. it was a very, um, poor article. the comments to it were probably 99% against it.

  55. - 47th Ward - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 11:43 am:

    Good points Fed Up,

    I’m just pushing back on the idea that CPD is understaffed. There are something like 12,000 authorized, budgeted positions, but only 10,500 officers on the payroll. My feeling is that 12,000 is too high, but I don’t know the right number. Neither does the city. But we can’t afford to overstaff if there are other ways to patrol more efficiently and effectively. Seems like no one wants to try anything new, and the answer always seems to be “we need more police.”

    But yeah, there are lots of factors in this, not just cops.

  56. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 12:32 pm:

    ===what would happen if the GA did not pass his beloved tax hikes? ===

    You must be talking about somebody else.

  57. - dupage dan - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 12:42 pm:


    I like your take on this issue - the way you break it down. Good stuff.

    The fear promulgated by the media serves a community purpose to focus the authorities since these cases take on “heater” status. We all know, however, that is NOT the main reason for the articles. As stated here, fear and news media equals ad time/income for the media.

    For a variety of reasons people break the law. We can discuss the reasons and suggest solutions but the main thing in the short term is to start out where you did - describe the actions and look at the tactics and then counter them. That is what law enforcement is supposed to do. Like checking out what CTA station they are using and staking it out.

  58. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 1:15 pm:

    @47th Ward -

    To me, the only way to look at police protection, both as a deterrent and response times, is to look at density, or the # of patrol officers divided by the area of the city.

    Chicago has about half the number of patrol officers per square mile of NYC, last time I checked.

  59. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 1:28 pm:

    @DuPage Dan -

    Thanks. I’m sure the police are using what info they have to figure out what is bringing these teens together. Same schools? Same hangouts? Same neighborhoods?

    In the latest arrests, for example, two of the defendents live almost five miles apart…one in Vicelords turf, one in Gangster Disciples turf.

    Again, that makes gang affiliation seem highly unlikely.

    Besides, gangs are more-or-less rational business enterprises. You don’t make money splitting an iPod 20 ways. You don’t gain a leg-up on your competition by going in to the Mag Mile. And you don’t gain street cred unless you take credit for it, which no one has yet.

    Again, just a theory.

  60. - whetstone - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 1:47 pm:

    @Yellow Dog Democrat

    “And they’re doing it in “mobs” because using superior numbers to overwhelm your victims means you don’t need to worry about those nasty armed robbery charges.”

    This. Speaking as a victim of an unsuccessful solo non-armed mugging–he got punches in, but not my stuff–two or more people can mug almost anyone. One person, without a weapon, is much easier for the target to deal with.

  61. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 2:10 pm:

    === Large groups of kids roaming the streets should and always will be a target for the cops to roust….Is that fair or even legal? No. But so what. ===

    If you’ve got beat patrol cops, cops should stop them and chat with them.

    But rounding them up? Um, no. Welcome to America.

    === two or more people can mug almost anyone. ===

    @Whetstone - Under most circumstances, I’d agree with you. But teenagers in the Mag Mile during broad daylight? Probably not before some bystander jumps in or the police get there. And during daylight, the victim is much more likely to fight back.

    You want atleast 4 or 5.

  62. - 47th Ward - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 2:36 pm:

    Thanks YDD,

    I would guess NYC has twice the population density of Chicago, so I’m not sure the comparison works. They have more than double the population, so shouldn’t they have at least double the number of cops?

    I realize the media needs a hook, but let’s face it, these are simple muggings. For as long as there have been cities, there have been muggings. Despite the attention, I don’t think we’re seeing a spike in muggings or a new crime wave.

    And what is the secondary market like for iPods, etc. Why would I want someone else’s phone? Where do you fence this stuff, and how much are the theives getting?

    Somebody should ask Scott Lee Cohen if his stores are seeing more volume in hand-helds.

  63. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 2:48 pm:

    @47th Ward -

    I agree on the market value of iPods, which is why I think these teens are doing it more for thrills than anything else.

    Yes, you can look at police coverage in terms of population density. But a policeman on every street corner is a policeman on every street corner when it comes to visibility and response time. It doesn’t matter too much if you have 250 residents per block or 500 or 1000.

  64. - Phineas J. Whoopee - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 2:50 pm:


    Maybe this is one of SLC’s jobs initatives?

  65. - Fed up - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 3:19 pm:


    I agree that the muggings probably are not an organized gang initiative. Not enough money and to much risk. Some of the fights at the beaches and 3 July fireworks have more of a gang feel to them. Not sure it matters to the victim getting beaten by 10+ nondescript youths if they are card carrying GD’ s or vice lords.

  66. - Phineas J. Whoopee - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 3:31 pm:

    ===Alexander and Marcus Clark, both 18, are each charged with robbery, aggravated battery and mob action===

    ===Although a witness described Tuesday’s incident as similar to last weekend’s downtown attacks in which 20 youths were arrested, police at the time would not categorize Tuesday night’s incident as mob violence.===

    Above are two quotes from the same trib article which leads me to believe that CPD better get their stories straight if they want a conviction.

  67. - amalia - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 3:54 pm:

    The Coach post at 10:48 am makes me deeply unhappy with the newsroom where he worked. and this happens far too frequently with media coverage. police regularly give out descriptions of an offender as part of a way to look for the offender. if the media does not give out the information, it’s not helpful to solving the immediate problem, let alone information for a truthful discussion about racial issues in our region. the actual victims of crime are the victims. no one else. offenders should be described as fully as possible.

  68. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 3:59 pm:

    ===offenders should be described as fully as possible. ===

    In the old days, newspapers tended to only identify the race of a perp if that person was black. They then likely over-corrected.

    But why you seem so demanding that we know an alleged criminal’s race is another question.

  69. - wordslinger - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 4:11 pm:

    ===offenders should be described as fully as possible. ===

    “He was described as a black male, 5′11″ to 6′1″, 170 to 190 lbs., with close-cropped black hair, wearing a white t-shirt, baggy jeans and Air Jordans.”

    Wait a minute, there he is…. there he is again…. holy smoke, there he is again…

    A victim can make an offender with a description like that, not Joe Citizen.

    And once again, raise your hands if you didn’t know that the Memorial Day suspects were black.

  70. - Coach - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 4:13 pm:

    Rich would have a much better sense of how the media handled such coverage back in the old days (what can I say, Rich has been around for a while), so I’ll defer to him on that.

    Regarding the newspaper’s responsibility to identify the race of the suspect so the public knows who to look for, it’s tough to imagine that adding race to a typical newspaper suspect description (”the alleged offender was male, between 30 and 40 years old, around 6 feet tall, and wearing a baseball cap, running west”) is going to make any difference in a city such as Chicago.

    There may be other reasons to include a suspect’s race in media coverage (see above post), but aiding the public in its supposed efforts to catch said suspect isn’t one of them.

  71. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 4:33 pm:

    @Phineas -

    I’m sorry, but WHERE is the evidence that the criminals in question are “gangbangers”?

    @Rich + Wordslinger -

    I think amalia was asking for eye color and whether they were left or right-handed.

    Seriously folks…given how completely unreliable eye witness descriptions and identifications are, I’m not sure how useful you think these descriptions are.

    I mean, unless they have a spider tattoo on their left shoulder spelling out “Wilbur”, the public descriptions aren’t going to lead to an arrest.

    Pictures are a different story.

  72. - John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 4:37 pm:

    >>>>if you didn’t know that the Memorial Day suspects were black.
    I thought there were just heat-exhaustion victims on Memorial Day…

  73. - Wensicia - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 4:49 pm:

    As some have remarked, these aren’t gang-bangers, the youths in my example certainly weren’t. The last thing gangs want is to attract the attention of law enforcement. They have businesses to run, they’re not interested in Smart Phones or MP3 players.

  74. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Jun 10, 11 @ 5:02 pm:

    @Wensicia -

    Exactly part of the reason I hate to see race injected into this debate.

    Otherwise well-meaning people hear about large groups of young black men, and then jump to the conclusion they are gang members.

    Next thing you know, some folks are talking about using german shepherds to patrol the streets and carrying concealed weapons.

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