People living in poverty are more likely to become victims of violent crime than higher income earners whether they live in cities, suburbs or rural areas, but the rural poor experience crime at higher rates, according to a Wednesday report by a Chicago research group.
The Heartland Alliance, a nonprofit organization, analyzed the overlap between poverty and crime at state and national levels for the first time in the nearly two decades it has studied poverty in Illinois. The group’s 44-page report cites census data, federal statistics and studies featuring victim interviews.
Chicago’s alarming rise in murders has dominated headlines, with over 750 homicides in 2016. However, when murder is taken out of the equation, the rural poor overall experience violent crime at a rate 192 percent higher than those with higher incomes in the same areas, according to the report.
“A lot of people envision violence as an urban problem, but there are a lot of types of violence,” said Heartland’s research director Katie Buitrago. “Some of the isolation and lack of resources that are in rural communities might result in people not being as aware of rural violence.”
The organization’s data show that Alexander County, along Illinois’ southernmost border, had the highest rate of violent offenses per 100,000 residents in 2015. The tally includes sexual assault and robbery, but excludes murder. The Mississippi River county, among the state’s poorest, has been hit hard by years of unemployment, a housing crisis and dwindling social services. Following behind Alexander for the rate of violent offenses are northern Illinois’ Winnebago County and Vermilion County in central Illinois. Cook County, which includes Chicago, ranks eighth.
* A few snippets from the full report…
Five neighborhoods—Austin, Englewood, New City, West Englewood, and Greater Grand Crossing—accounted for nearly half of the increase in murders between 2015 and 2016. A staggering 764 people were murdered in Chicago in 2016. A much higher percentage of homicides in Chicago are committed with a gun than in other major cities—and while Chicago’s non-gun-related homicide rate is similar to rates in other major cities, Chicago’s gun homicide rate is significantly higher. […]
Growth in number of poor people living in extreme poverty neighborhoods in Chicago between 2000 and 2008–2012: 384% […]
Several Chicago and national studies have found that common responses to violence exposure include stronger retaliatory beliefs, difficulty controlling aggressive behavior, and the use of physical aggression. Exposure to community violence can normalize the use of aggression as a way to solve problems among youth, who may come to see violence as an appropriate behavior, be hyperaware of threats, and become more likely to ascribe hostile intent to benign behavior. One study found that youth experiencing high trauma were two times more likely to be chronic weapons carriers than those who were not. The biological response to trauma lends insight into why it may lead to aggressive behavior: the stress response becomes overstimulated, while the brain struggles to extinguish fear responses and becomes increasingly sensitive to stress. These neurological processes interfere with memory processing and the ability to exhibit self-control, reasoning, problem-solving, and planning. […]
The prison population in Illinois has grown by 350 percent between 1980 and 2014. […]
Employment, jobs, and income intersect with the cycle of poverty, violence, and trauma at many points. Wage declines explain a significant portion of increases in violent crime rates, while increasing wages reduces the amount of time spent on criminal activity. Experiencing violence can lead to trauma that interferes with employment. Survivors of domestic violence, in particular, face employment challenges, both due to trauma as well as abuse. Domestic violence survivors have a decreased likelihood of escaping poverty, have high unemployment rates, and experience traumatic symptoms that make it hard to maintain employment.106 The inability to get and keep good-paying jobs is a major cause of poverty. In 2015, 48.5 percent of domestic violence survivors in Illinois reported a monthly income of $500 or less and 65.3 percent were either employed part-time or not employed. […]
Children who are victims of violent crime struggle to achieve in school, and the effect worsens as they are exposed to more violence. Experiencing violence has negative effects on children’s academic achievement, including lower reading levels, lower test performance, and IQ scores. […]
The Illinois school districts with the highest poverty rates receive 27% less in funding per student than districts with the lowest poverty rates. […]
One study estimates that reducing the average blood lead level in preschool children by one microgram would result in nearly 2,500 fewer robberies, almost 54,000 fewer aggravated assaults, over 4,100 fewer rapes, and over 700 fewer murders nationwide per year.