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Chicago and crime

Wednesday, Jan 25, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* It seems that almost all candidates for local offices in Chicago are talking about crime these days. Even Chuy Garcia put the crime problem at the center of his campaign TV ad.

So, while I don’t agree with everything in this blog comment from the other day, I think it’s pretty insightful overall

I think there are a few answers to why the crime rate from 25 years ago is so disturbing to modern day Chicagoans.

First, many Chicagoans moved there during the 2000s when things were better. They don’t remember the 80s. They wouldn’t have moved in if things were like the 80s.

Second, like it or not, we are now in a position to read every detail of every attack on the red line or Logan Square or anywhere else. If it bleeds it leads has always been a thing, but the media back in the day would pick one or two stories, not deluge their audience with a full hour of crime stories. Social media, however, can. I think that’s for the better, too much was hidden back in the day, and social media makes for a better telling of full scope of the crime (not just the primary but secondary and tertiary victims).

3rd where the crimes happen has changed a bit. Violent crime on the CTA was low even in the 80s. Crime didn’t happen in wealthier neighborhoods in the 80s. It was limited to places like Uptown and other poorer neighborhoods. Here I would say that Preckwinkle was both correct and impolitic in her observations about violent crime and wealthier neighborhoods.

* And while folks like the governor and others have been saying that crime is going down, check out these year to date numbers and historical comparisons from the Chicago Police Department

Yes, it’s only a few weeks of data, but it doesn’t look good. And the election is coming up fast.

…Adding… The vehicular hijacking data for this month is here.


  1. - Lurker - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 10:49 am:

    Those two theft numbers are scary.

  2. - Just Another Anon - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 10:50 am:

    All I can think of is Kevin Bacon in Animal House shouting “Remain Calm! All is Well!!!” in increasingly distressed tones.

  3. - ObjectiveTruth - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 10:51 am:

    Really interesting blog. In the context of Vallas, he was budget director and lauds how he was in control of the police dept budget—-but the murder numbers in the 90s while he was in charge were worse than today.

  4. - New Day - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 10:51 am:

    Are you sure about those motor vehicle theft numbers? As I recall, that was the total for all of 2021.

  5. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 10:51 am:

    Motor vehicle thefts are through the roof. Does that include catalytic converter theft too? Seems like that category is solely responsible for the huge increase in crime stats from 2019 to 2023.

  6. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 10:52 am:

    ===Are you sure about===

    Click the link. It’s from CPD

  7. - New Day - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 10:56 am:

    I just did and pulled up the spreadsheet. There have been 100 in January 2023.

  8. - MisterJayEm - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 10:56 am:

    “we are now in a position to read every detail of every attack”

    Reminds me of an observation that my father once made: “We feel like things are getting worse all the time because now we know about every bad thing that happens. When I was a kid, I never heard about some guy who killed his family in Arizona — much less in Pakistan.”

    I’m no social psychologist, but that makes a lot of sense to me.

    – MrJM

  9. - BC - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 10:58 am:

    I think that post is pretty good. One thing I would add regarding the media coverage: the availability of video footage makes crime seem all the more tangible to folks. Cell phones, security cameras, Ring doorbells, etc. capture crime in sometimes horrific detail. That makes covering crime more TV-friendly than it’s ever been.

  10. - Give Us Barabbas - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 10:58 am:

    I was born and raised in Chicago, my parents reacted to the 1968 riots by moving us out to the suburbs. I watch WGN news and they are obsessed with crime coverage. Some of that is political, most if it is commercial, in that scary crime coverage grabs old people eyeballs for advertisers. If you only watch this channel you think Chicago crime is much worse than reality.

  11. - levivotedforjudy - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 11:00 am:

    Those numbers are really high and justify why people are concerned. I live on the North side and it is huge that people who could be oblivious to crime now have to live probably the way people in certain West and South Side neighborhoods always have. It is freaking people out. I take the EL a couple days a week and part of it is that the horde of people that used to be on the train and in the stations is paltry. Much easier to isolate people. The lack of cops is obvious to the eye. I know candidates talk about structural changes that need to be made, but people are afraid of getting car-jacked tonight.

  12. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 11:01 am:

    The problem is leadership has no plan except to condescend to the public and make very trite observations about new media.

  13. - Illinois - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 11:03 am:

    It is interesting to watch this Mayoral race. If the Dems had not had an assist from Clarence Thomas and friends, the November election would have been much more about the economy with crime a close second instead of the mess it was. It’s ironic and aggravating that IL Dems have been so helped over the last few years by Rauner, Trump, Bailey, Proft & Clarence (and of course a great map).

  14. - Brock.friedman - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 11:05 am:

    My wife’s family settled in Uptown in 1938. 3 generation there until the last of them moved away to the suburbs with us. So her childhood was the 70’s and 80’s there and yes,it was kind of nuts. There was a period severe arson and my father in law Philip Arendt saw a burning building. He rushed into the fire and carried out 3 people, saved thier lives. The city recognized him as a hero and put him in charge of a city-civilian anti gang and arson task force who ran the thugs out of the neighborhood. He was very proud of this and the neighborhood prospered. Bur today all that is falling apart again. Sad but glad he isn’t here to see it. It makes my wife and mother in law very angry.

  15. - H-W - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 11:11 am:

    I think I understand your more nuanced point, Rich, that elections are coming up, and candidates always try to find patterns that they can hold the incumbent “responsible for,” since the pattern occurred “on their watch.”

    In that context, while candidates may be able to lead voters to think the current mayor there is responsible for the increase in crime there during the past four years, the unfortunate realities are (1) the violent crime rate has declined significantly over the past couple decades, regardless of the COVID era, and (2) the “year to date” data misrepresents annual patterns of crime.

    For example, if the crime rate has historically declined even through the COVID era, then these data simply represent a convenient blip in the more relevant annual data. It would be just as easy to find a three-week period of the year in which crime rates have shown significant declines across these four years. If I were the mayor, I would emphasize on the non-representativeness of weekly convenience data to make a misleading point, and focus on the annual crime rate trends pre- and post tenure in office.

    I would also drop the statistical anomalies - car theft and theft. Something else is going on there. It is not the same a murder, robbery, aggravated assault, arson, etc.

    But you are right. Teasing out these data give those outside of government an argument to make that crime rates look bad, as presented.

  16. - TheInvisibleMan - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 11:12 am:

    How does the change in crime rate compare to other large cities in Illinois other than Chicago?

  17. - Biker - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 11:19 am:

    Particularly regarding public transit, it’s clear the City wasn’t reacting quickly to many warnings about commuter safety concerns. Raising legitimate governance issues with this administration is seen as attacking the Mayor personally and dealt with by attacking the messenger instead of the problem.

  18. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 11:20 am:

    === It’s ironic and aggravating that IL Dems have been so helped over the last few years by Rauner, Trump, Bailey, Proft & Clarence===

    No. Stop. No.

    Winners make policy and when Rauner won, when Trump won, the policies and thoughts lost. There was no “luck”. Those loses were rejections.

    Bailey? Yeah, 56+% of the voting GOP supported Bailey abd all he stood for, with FIVE other choices. The voters rejected going backwards with Bailey.

    The Clarence Thomas Court, all but making Roberts irrelevant, that’s what the GOP hoped. The voters rejecting a Right Activist Court isn’t luck, it’s democracy, and voters rejecting what one branch, all members, said was “settled” law.

    So please, stop.

    To this post, specifically,

    Crime is a local issue that has its greatest traction in local contests, especially if data and anecdotal thoughts can find a home in the messaging.

    Incumbency has many perks, but even Mayors Own, be it social services, public works, and crime responses and “feelings” too.

    The Police Superintendent is an issue it seems too

    Why? Appointee. Local.

  19. - Jockey - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 11:22 am:

    IMO, Lori is running against the ghost of Rahm. Love him or hate him Rahm had things running smoothly. The downtown area was safe and had a ton of amenities, the growth of the West Loop, and even Pilsen were headed in right direction.

    People who lived in these neighborhoods during that time can see the change and vibes of those areas.

    Today, the downtown area is a husk of its self, videos of violence on Wells Street hurts and Pilsen crime has a taco vendor robbery problem.

    Lori has to run against this

  20. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 11:27 am:

    ===Lori has to run against this ===

    Yes, good point. It’s not all her fault, obviously, but mayors own things like crime problems in election years.

  21. - lake county democrat - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 11:39 am:

    I think there’s a big race angle to this - the carjackings in wealthier neighborhoods and “flash mobs” (for lack of a better term) of African-Americans taking over streets or the beach seem to bother a lot of voters more than the regular dozens of shootings each weekend on the south and west side (there was hand-wringing, but whenever Daley Jr. or Rahm would blame it on people not risking their lives by snitching, the media might push back but I didn’t sense it moved a lot of voters). I remember something similar in the 80s: drugs were always around, but the “war on drugs” came right about when suburban kids started getting into cocaine.

  22. - Pundent - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 11:50 am:

    =If I were the mayor, I would emphasize on the non-representativeness of weekly convenience data to make a misleading point, and focus on the annual crime rate trends pre- and post tenure in office.=

    If the votes of statisticians were enough to put her over the top I’d agree with you. But I don’t think explaining the rise in car jackings as an anomaly is going to work with many voters.

  23. - Gravitas - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 11:52 am:

    Lightfoot has a huge problem with crime statistics. The 20th Police District was formerly one of the safest residential areas in the city (far north, close to the suburbs). Crime has skyrocketed there according to Compstat. There was a major bank robbery yesterday. There were shootings and a particularly brutal murder four months ago. I do not pretend to know the answers, but the lax policies in the criminal justice system are taking a toll on Lightfoot’s reelection prospects.

  24. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 11:55 am:

    Interesting that quite a few posters talking about the impact of crime on the Mayor’s race were noting that crime had no impact in the state elections three months ago…

    People said crime was going down but the stats from Chicago and info from Buckner, Chuy, and other suggest otherwise.

  25. - cermak_rd - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 11:57 am:

    Re-crime no impact on state elections.

    That is because the governor and statehouse reps are not directly responsible for policing or crime-handling in Chicago. The mayor on the other hand, and to a lesser extend the alders, is clearly the responsible person for that.

  26. - DuPage - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 12:10 pm:

    I don’t have a lot of confidence in the numbers here. If someone walks into a store and walks out with less than $900 worth of merchandise, Kimm “let ‘em go” Foxx does not prosecute. So, the police don’t waste their resources going after the shoplifters in most cases. So, these cases are not showing up in these numbers. It is showing up in the number of store closures. Stores can only absorb so much loss before they can’t stay in business.

  27. - Amalia - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 12:14 pm:

    It’s true that the internet tells us about crime faster than we would otherwise hear about it. It is also true that social media…via the internet….plays a huge role in exchange of information by criminals, in fueling mass unlawful activities, in inciting violence. just listing all the feuds between rappers who put things on line is exhausting. Things move pretty fast these days. and it’s no longer the world of Ferris Bueller.

  28. - Arsenal - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 12:15 pm:

    ==Interesting that quite a few posters talking about the impact of crime on the Mayor’s race were noting that crime had no impact in the state elections three months ago==

    Well, it didn’t. The Tuff On Crime guys lost pretty resoundingly. There’s a few reasons for that:

    1) Voters code crime as a local issue. That’s probably correct.

    2) Crime was really bad in Chicago, but most Chicagoans didn’t believe that a farmland Republican was worth it.

    3) Bailey and DeVore were uniquely bad messengers on pretty much everything, but they especially had no credibility on crime. Hell, Bailey was most famous for breaking the law.

  29. - H-W - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 12:22 pm:

    @ Pundent Agreed.

  30. - Mjolnir - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 12:28 pm:

    I know no one wants to say or hear this but part of the answer is also in the CPD arrest and clearance data. A side by side analysis will be very telling.

  31. - Back to the Future - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 12:28 pm:

    Liked the history info from Brock.Friedman. We sure could use more citizens like his father in law.
    As to the post, I feel a little uncomfortable going out in River North after 9:30, but voting for a wing nut like Bailey for Governor did not seem to be the answer to the public safety issue in the neighborhood.
    Pretty sure public safety will be a much bigger issue in the Mayor’s race.

  32. - Concerned Observer - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 12:30 pm:

    There are a few other reasons why local news is, as was explained above, “obsessed with crime”. In fact, I would dispute the ‘political’ angle, or at least diminish it, in favor of:

    1) Stations do not have the resources they had back in the day. There are fewer reporters, fewer camera people, fewer producers, fewer writers, and all are tasked with creating more content than they were ten years ago, let alone 30.

    2) Those reporters, camera people, producers, writers, etc, all tend to be younger and less experienced than they were ten years ago, or 30. This goes for faces you see on TV - Floyd Kalber would have been bought out fifteen years before his actual retirement in this media structure - and it goes doubly or triply for those behind the scenes. There has been a CLTV-ing of nearly every local broadcast, with people barely removed from college making decisions they are frankly not qualified to make.

    These two things have happened almost exclusively for financial reasons, and so we get a lot of crime on TV because:

    3) While causes of crime are hard things to cover, Crime Itself is cheap, easy, and nearly free to cover. It’s also a never-ending resource, and as mentioned above, attracts eyeballs.

    The underlying causes of rot in the news business need to change for crime coverage to die down. I’m not taking bets on that happening, sadly.

  33. - Amalia - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 12:38 pm:

    a deep analysis of juvenile delinquencies in Cook County is necessary. when a juvenile is adjudicated, is this the first time the police have taken them in? probably not. how many times were they let go before first adjudication? delinquency calls are geographic, right? what is going on in each call? you can do a really deep dive into what is happening with juvenile crime by area. maybe some of this can be stopped before it gets too dangerous.

  34. - City Zen - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 12:39 pm:

    Hyundai/Kia need to be held more accountable for their security flaws.

  35. - cermak_rd - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 12:42 pm:

    People in the city who are the victims of thieves very seldom get their property back or the thieves prosecuted, so to some extent why should retail get a special deal? Let them sue the thief in civil court for damages.

    Also that $500 dollars limit was passed in when, 97? Using an online calculator I can see that the inflation adjusted value of that $500 in 97 is $911, pretty close to $1000. So Foxx is not making an unreasonable decision (also puts her around the same level as other large municipalities)

  36. - Betty Draper’s cigarette - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 12:43 pm:

    === It is showing up in the number of store closures.===
    Hmmm. What have the other 39 states been doing for stores?

    Only one state has a lower felony threshold for shoplifting than Illinois, New Jersey. 39 states have a felony threshold of $1000 or more. And remember people can be charged with a misdemeanor for shoplifting under the felony threshold amount, which can be up to one year in jail.

  37. - City Guy - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 12:53 pm:

    There is a good report out on the issue of increases in violent crime from the Brennan Center.

    I’m summarizing based on quick read, but they said there was not a correlation with progressive criminal justice reform. They focus on the pandemic driving the increase due to severe economic problems, loss of jobs, death of family members, increase in mental health/substance abuse issues, and cutbacks in services by non-profits.

    If you want to see how Chicago compares, below is a summary of increases in murders for 5 most populous cities. First number is 2019-2020, Second number is 2020-2021. Phoenix +42.4% –0.5%; Chicago +56.7% +3.4%, New York +46.7% +3.6%, Los Angeles +36.1% +13.7%, Houston +45.5% +16.3%. The report calls out that car jacking is also increasing many places.

  38. - RNUG - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 12:53 pm:

    == I think there’s a big race angle to this - the carjackings in wealthier neighborhoods and “flash mobs” … ==

    While race is part of it, I would contend that it is as much or more about class (aka wealth) as race. We often use one term as a synonym / substitute for the other, and while demographics often ties the two together, they are not exactly the same. When crime invades (for want of a better term) upscale neighborhoods, you get more complaints. And while it is unfair, those wealthier citizens know how to push back harder, and often have more clout with the politicians and bureaucracy. Always been that way, especially in places like Chicago where you know someone who knows someone … that might be able to fix whatever problem.

    The candidate who can articulate a fix in a 15 or 30 second ad will do well.

  39. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 12:56 pm:

    ===It’s not all her fault, obviously, but mayors own things like crime problems in election years.===

    You’re too generous. She is a goof on crime, like everything.

  40. - Chicagonk - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 1:02 pm:

    Activists targeted the Strategic Subject List and Lightfoot gave in to their demands.

    Focused deterrence is a strategy that other cities are using. And the strategy requires intelligence on those most likely to be involved in crimes. I’m sure that CPD wasn’t using it to it’s full potential, but a new mayor needs all tools available to reduce crime (even if it upsets the activists)

  41. - Teve Demotte - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 1:16 pm:

    “Objective Truth” talk about oxymoron. Blaming Paul Vallas for crime in the city when he was budget director is absurd. For those of us who have lived in the city since the 1980’s; the city’s population was higher, crime was more concentrated around dense public housing and gang dynamics were different. Crime peaked in the early 1990’s and then began a precipitous decline to a low in homicides close or below 500 in 2004 or so. There are many reasons for the decline: better economy, better policing strategies, federal programs, particularly under President Clinton. The key was better management!

  42. - CG - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 1:22 pm:

    The CTA is a lifeblood of the City. Importantly, the L and the buses stop in all neighborhoods and some near suburbs. They have got to do something about this safety problem. I am committed to supporting mass transit. But I have been threatened multiple times on the L in the past year or so. I almost never see any security or police unless there is an actual shooting. I continue to ride and diligently and repeatedly report to the CTA in detail because, while it would be more hassle for me, I do have the financial means to use other methods of transportation. What about other residents that don’t? I’m trying to help by continuing to ride and report. But I feel like I’m screaming into a void. Lightfoot’s administration’s biggest failure is that they have failed to understand the absolute emergency situation the CTA is in with respect to safety.

  43. - Hemi345 - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 1:38 pm:

    Please remind what gun control measures are in place in Chicago? And let’s see crime is at an all time high. Could there be correlation between the two?

  44. - ZC - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 1:48 pm:

    >> I know no one wants to say or hear this but part of the answer is also in the CPD arrest and clearance data. A side by side analysis will be very telling.

    I wonder if in part Covid didn’t just help weaken a lot of the social fabric that helps keep crime lower, it also weakened the perception of the CPD’s competence. With social media and “just in time crime” you saw a lot of less savory groups taking the time to experiment, “Hey, if we rob X store, try this out, will the cops actually arrest us?” And too often they found out the answer was no.

    A lot of thieves in Chicago now just don’t respect the CPD’s ability to catch them. I’m wondering if there has been a fundamental perception shift. And until they do, I think the robbery portion is going to be a huge nightmare for Lightfoot or any future mayor. Conversely, I do expect some of the crime spread to higher-income neighborhoods to die down, eventually, as the cops there react more forcefully (and yes get more assistance from the local neighbors, who still tend to trust them more), and the robbers who target these neighborhoods see a higher rate of apprehension. Very speculative, obviously. We’ll see.

  45. - cermak_rd - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 1:49 pm:

    Hemi345, Gun control (such as it is) in Chicago is useless when people just buy guns in Indiana, Kentucky and other neighboring states. To some extent, I would say IL passing gun sales restrictions will meet the same problem except we will have a few more tools than a city does and can at least point our fingers at the actual problems a little more blatantly.

  46. - low level - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 2:00 pm:

    Cermak_Rd comment was right on point. Although the city definitely has challenges, we have faced this before. The good thing about the current day is you see buildings going up in places you never would’ve thought you’d see development. That is a good sign for the city and its future.

  47. - TNR - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 2:30 pm:

    The Illinois Dept of Corrections inmate population has gone from about 48,000 inmates in 2014 to about 28,000 today. The Cook County Jail average daily population has been cut in half, from about 10,000 to 5,000 inmates, during roughly the same time frame. (Similar decreased incarceration rates are occurring around the nation.) The number of annual arrests by the Chicago Police Department has declined at an even sharper rate.

    Now, correlation does not equal causation and a lot of the declining numbers can be attributed to de-emphasizing the prosecution of drug possession (a good thing.) And we still don’t understand the pandemic’s role in all this. But, these are pretty dramatic declines in incarceration and arrests that shouldn’t be dismissed as factors in the recent spike in crime. Yes, mass incarceration has many detrimental effects on society, particularly on people of color. But so do increased crime rates. No easy explanations or solutions exist, but there’s got to be an effort to find a middle ground.

  48. - lake county democrat - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 2:39 pm:

    Hemi345: Oh, there’s a correlation, but it’s not between Chicago’s gun laws and crime but the surrounding red states, particularly minutes-from-Chicago Indiana, where so many of the guns used in crime come from.

  49. - cermak_rd - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 2:57 pm:

    TNR, I actually think it’s a matter of having the right people incarcerated for the right amount of time; not raw numbers.

    You allude to what is needed from incarceration, keeping people who are a hazard to their neighbors and others out of circulation, by convicting them cleanly of crimes they actually did do and can be proven to have done, ideally without relying on officer supplied information (lying is too tempting).
    And hopefully, while incarcerated, the convicted can learn some techniques of self control and anger management and an employable skill for the future.

  50. - Hemi345 - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 3:13 pm:

    Yes guns come into Illinois from other locals but they are still illegal in Chicago make up more gun laws is not going to solve the problem. Identify the problem and fix it

  51. - cermak_rd - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 3:48 pm:

    The problem is that we are the United States with the 2nd ammendment of our constitution. That’s literally the problem. And we’re stuck with it until the people have had enough and repeal the 2nd or move to other countries.

  52. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Jan 25, 23 @ 4:03 pm:

    ===repeal the 2nd===

    Rather than repeal it, I’d amend it by changing one little word. I’d changed “infringed” to “prohibited.”

    One word makes all the difference.

  53. - Betty Draper’s cigarette - Thursday, Jan 26, 23 @ 9:33 am:

    === Yes guns come into Illinois from other locals but they are still illegal in Chicago===

    Guns are legal in Chicago. You need a FOID card.

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