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Chicago crime by the numbers

Monday, Jul 10, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* David Olson and Don Stemen from the the Center for Criminal Justice at Loyola University Chicago writing in the Tribune

A few specific facts about crime in Chicago need to be laid out to place discussions of gun violence into the larger context. The context might surprise many, but more importantly, the lack of this context can steer people to the wrong conclusions about solutions. First, most of the crimes committed in Chicago are not violent crimes. Last year, just 24% of serious crimes reported in Chicago were violent offenses. Rather, most — 76% — were property crimes. And the total number of property crimes reported to the Chicago police decreased almost every single year from 2001 to 2019 (pre-pandemic), falling almost 50% during that period, before seeing a slight (3%) increase from 2019 to 2022.

And while there is a perception that overall violent crime is increasing, the total number of serious violent crimes reported to Chicago police decreased almost every year from 2001 to 2022, dropping 46% from 2001 to 2019 (pre-pandemic), before increasing slightly (2%) from 2019 to 2022. Further, the vast majority (90%) of all serious crime in Chicago does not involve a firearm, and homicides committed with a firearm account for less than 0.5% of all serious crime.

This is not to diminish the severity of homicides and nonfatal gun crimes — e.g., robberies, assaults, batteries, and sexual assaults — but to emphasize that they are rare relative to other crime. Further, and critical to understanding the nature of violent crime in Chicago, the number of violent crimes that do not involve a firearm decreased almost every single year from 2001 to 2022, falling 50% during that period.

Thus, most forms of serious crime have decreased substantially over the past 20 years. The one exception, particularly in recent years, is gun violence. Although gun violence decreased steadily through the early 2000s, Chicago has experienced several annual increases since. Most substantially, between 2019 and 2022, there was a 46% increase in gun violence in Chicago. Despite that increase, gun violence in 2022 was 23% lower than in 2001.

In addition to more gun violence in recent years, the lethality of these offenses has also increased. In the early 2000s, Chicago experienced roughly 30 nonfatal violent crimes committed with a firearm for every firearm homicide; in the past four years, this ratio changed to 15 to 1. This pattern is being seen nationally, not just in Chicago. This increase in lethality could be due to the intent of the perpetrator, larger-capacity magazines increasing the likelihood that at least one bullet will fatally strike a victim, larger-caliber ammunition increasing the likelihood that a wound will prove fatal or a combination of all these.

In any case, this dramatic increase in gun violence over the past few years coincides not only with the pandemic but also with an unprecedented increase in the number of handguns produced and purchased in the United States. And it is likely that some of these legally produced (and mostly legally purchased) handguns are illegally ending up in the hands of young people. While their motivation for possessing a firearm may be fear of victimization, increased status among their peers or to commit a crime, they are also impulsive and don’t fully appreciate the impact of their behaviors.

       

25 Comments
  1. - H-W - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 9:09 am:

    If the fatality rate has changed from 30-to-1 to 15-to-1 since around the year 2000, then it is hard to argue (as conservative justices do) that we argue from a historic argument regarding the intent of the 2nd Amendment if we seek change. Whatever the founders were thinking in 1789 regarding the right to keep and bear arms, something new is afoot. What is possible now was not possible then. Regulation is required if we are to reduce the lethality of contemporary weapons, and return to the intent of the founders.


  2. - Donnie Elgin - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 9:18 am:

    “And it is likely that some of these legally produced (and mostly legally purchased) handguns are illegally ending up in the hands of young people.”

    This Loyola researcher should talk to the University of Chicago Crime lab researcher – there is no “likely: to it – the vast majority of gun crimes are committed by individuals illegally possessing the gun.

    “Finally, in 95 percent of cases where CPD was able to identify the possessor of the crime gun, that individual was not the original, lawful purchaser of the firearm based upon the ATF record at the initial point of purchase”

    https://tinyurl.com/43rkapvn


  3. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 9:30 am:

    - Donnie Elgin -

    As you continue to comment on guns, did you not call gun deaths “regrettable”

    ===Of course, gun-related killings are always regrettable===

    The how or why as your concern here seems misplaced.

    To the post,

    ===Thus, most forms of serious crime have decreased substantially over the past 20 years. The one exception, particularly in recent years, is gun violence. Although gun violence decreased steadily through the early 2000s, Chicago has experienced several annual increases since. Most substantially, between 2019 and 2022, there was a 46% increase in gun violence in Chicago. Despite that increase, gun violence in 2022 was 23% lower than in 2001.===

    Context to a historic measure isn’t part of any political narrative, as those in these discussions talk about the “now” and “yesterday” because the existing violence or context to its measure really can’t make things thoughtful to any particular actual moment.

    That’s the struggle to talking context.


  4. - 47th Ward - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 9:38 am:

    ===Despite that increase, gun violence in 2022 was 23% lower than in 2001.===

    Chicago’s reputation as a crime-ridden violent h#llhole started shortly after January 20th, 2009. I remember when Drudge first put up the Chicago murder rate and kept the body count going, presumably, to demonstrate that the Democrats in charge of Obama’s hometown were incompetent, criminal-loving, gun hating liberals, just like Obama. When Rahm became mayor, the same people who hated Obama hated Emanuel as much or more, so the theme continued.

    Now? This is Chicago’s international reputation, thanks wholly to politically motivated fear-mongering. The facts demonstrated in this article show that this reputation was manufactured by partisans and the truth is much more complicated.

    There is no question that gun violence is a horrible problem in Chicago, but there is nothing unique about Chicago. Gun violence is an American problem and it requires a national solution.


  5. - H-W - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 9:40 am:

    === That’s the struggle to talking context. ===

    Agreed. At the same time, I am sure the Attorney General of Illinois will be expected to discuss “historic context” at some point soon, in the federal cases.

    It is as if the U.S. Supreme Court has created a work of fiction (”Guessing The Founders’ Intent”) so as to strike down most attempts to prevent gun violence and homicides.


  6. - James - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 9:43 am:

    The is so much word salad, in order to make sure the conclusion is “things are not so bad after all.”

    “Last year, just 24% of serious crimes reported in Chicago were violent offenses.” Is that statement supposed to make me feel good about Crime in Chicago?


  7. - Stephanie Kollmann - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 9:45 am:

    Donnie, less than 10% of the “crime guns” traced in that report were recovered as part of a violent crime arrest. The vast majority, nearly 90%, were seized due to a licensing violations alone. So saying that 95% of the “crime guns” were unlawfully possessed is a bit of a tautology.


  8. - Donnie Elgin - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 9:59 am:

    “The vast majority, nearly 90%, were seized due to a licensing violations alone. So saying that 95% of the “crime guns” were unlawfully possessed is a bit of a tautology”

    Still, makes the point that law-abiding citizens legally in possession of firearms are not the problem. Bans and restrictions will not impact criminals who will commit gun crimes regardless of the laws or regulations.


  9. - 47th Ward - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 10:24 am:

    ===Bans and restrictions will not impact criminals who will commit gun crimes regardless of the laws or regulations.===

    Until we decide to crack down on illegal gun sales. Cars and car parts have unique serial numbers. Firearms have serial numbers. We don’t use these to track ownership or possession. Why not?

    Criminals will commit gun crimes as long as they have access to guns. I’d think you law abiding owners would want to be sure it isn’t your gun being used in a crime.


  10. - Hannibal Lecter - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 10:29 am:

    === makes the point that law-abiding citizens legally in possession of firearms are not the problem. ===

    Until they are. Law-abiding citizens are only law-abiding until they are not.


  11. - TinyDancer(FKASue) - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 10:37 am:

    = the total number of serious violent crimes reported to Chicago police decreased almost every year from 2001 to 2022=

    Carjackings and robberies are off the charts.
    Never seen anything like this.
    And I’ve been in Lincoln Park on and off (mostly on) since 1972.


  12. - DuPage - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 10:51 am:

    2 counties, (Cook and Will) are right next to each other. Both have State’s Attornies that are Democrats, but the way they respond to criminals is much, much different.

    https://www.fox32chicago.com/news/cook-county-man-said-hed-be-out-by-sunday-after-armed-carjacking-will-now-serve-22-years-in-will-county


  13. - Roman - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 11:16 am:

    The “context” from the authors is useful. It’s encouraging that crimes that don’t involve gun violence are down. But it’s hard to get past this: “between 2019 and 2022, there was a 46% increase in gun violence in Chicago.”

    Hopefully, this was a pandemic fueled bump that will recede. But shootings (particularly those incidents classified as “mass shootings”) and carjackings (which have spiked at an even higher rate that shootings) have a randomness that expand the potential victim pool in a way that other violent crimes, like assaults and batteries, don’t. Innocent kids playing in the park are more susceptible to stray gun fire and folks running errands in their minivans are more likely to be carjacked. These incidents are rare, but they have increased substantially. Which fuels media hype — and a hard to dismiss sense of fear.

    The context of knowing you are statistically much less likely to be hit over the head by a mugger than you were a generation ago provides some solace, but not much.


  14. - Betty Draper’s cigarette - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 11:34 am:

    === Carjackings and robberies are off the charts.
    Never seen anything like this.===
    Robberies are up 14% from 2021 at a total of 8996 for 2022. That comes out to 25 a day, for a city of 2.7 million people, or 0.33% have a chance of being robbed.
    Auto theft is up a whopping 55% with 21,516 cars, or 0.8% per person. None of this is “feel good” as James says, the numbers should be zero. But it is important to put things in perspective.


  15. - Stephanie Kollmann - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 11:51 am:

    “Still, makes the point that law-abiding citizens legally in possession of firearms are not the problem.”

    No, it really doesn’t.


  16. - JS Mill - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 12:03 pm:

    =Still, makes the point that law-abiding citizens legally in possession of firearms are not the problem.=

    You need to step up and visit the families of those killed with “legally possessed” guns and tell them (face to face) how those killers were not the problem.

    You can start down the road in Highland Park.


  17. - Give Us Barabbas - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 12:38 pm:

    I concur with the opinion that there’s been a calculated effort by conservative media to paint Chicago crime as way more extensive than it actually is,vand to portray it as getting worse. The purpose is to build anti-Democratic sentiment for elections, by playing to fear and suggesting crime would be eliminated if you’d just vote for the authoritarian conservative Republican candidates. It’s incredibly obvious if you watch Chicago TV news, especially WGN.


  18. - Sances - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 12:47 pm:

    “Still, makes the point that law-abiding citizens legally in possession of firearms are not the problem”

    From the article:

    …it is likely that some of these legally produced (and mostly legally purchased) handguns are illegally ending up in the hands of young people.

    Sounds like “law-abiding gun owners” made the first purchase. That’s a problem.


  19. - cermak_rd - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 1:38 pm:

    Straw purchasers are (by definition) legal purchasers.

    Also if the legal buyers could lock their weapons up when not in use, it might reduce the number of weapon’s thefts that lead to the illegal supply.


  20. - Gravitas - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 1:56 pm:

    Sorry, but no. The people who are unhappy are not alarmists.

    Crime is out of control in Chicago, including such formerly quiet residential neighborhoods as Rogers Park, West Ridge, and Albany Park.

    The number of carjackings and armed robberies are up. Dismissing the seriousness of the crimes because certain incidents did not result in fatalities is not the way to go.

    Residents and business owners are scared stiff.


  21. - Chicago 20 - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 2:34 pm:

    Simply put, television news crime reporting is a single-sourced, open-ended, cheap and easy way to bring crime into their viewers homes everyday. The more the media can sensationalize the crime, the more often they can rerun the same video.


  22. - JS Mill - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 2:47 pm:

    =Straw purchasers are (by definition) legal purchasers.=

    Actually, you may want to check that as they are purchasing it for someone who cannot legally purchase a gun.

    Not legal.


  23. - TinyDancer(FKASue) - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 3:09 pm:

    =That comes out to 25 a day, for a city of 2.7 million people, or 0.33% have a chance of being robbed.=

    A small chance of being robbed? If you spread the incidence across the entire city, I guess that reduces the chances.
    But these crimes are not being committed evenly across the city.
    They are concentrated in certain neighborhoods.
    So, in those neighborhoods, carjackings and robberies are off the charts.


  24. - Mr. Green Genes - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 5:49 pm:

    “They are concentrated in certain neighborhoods.
    So, in those neighborhoods, carjackings and robberies are off the charts.”
    Are you sure about that? Robbers and carjackers have cars, most likely stolen.


  25. - Mayo Sandwich - Monday, Jul 10, 23 @ 7:39 pm:

    = Dismissing the seriousness of the crimes because certain incidents did not result in fatalities is not the way to go.=

    Nobody “dismissed the seriousness of the crimes.”
    Whether the number of crimes are increasing or decreasing, doesn’t remove “seriousness” from a crime.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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