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by Peter Moskos

March 28, 2016

Chicago violence

Maybe killers don't dress with such flair in Chicago as they do in Detroit. But what Chicago murders lack in quality, they make up for in quantity.

Some experts prefer to put their head in the sand and hope it all goes away:
“Trying to read too much into this is a grave mistake,” said Craig B. Futterman, a clinical professor of law at the University of Chicago. “We’re all just guessing.”
Really? A "grave mistake" when homicides are almost doubled compared to the same time last year? No. It's high time for everybody to give their best guess. Here's mine:
Since January, officers have recorded 20,908 times that they stopped, patted down and questioned people for suspicious behavior, compared with 157,346 in the same period last year. Gun seizures are also down: 1,316 guns have been taken off the streets this year compared with 1,413 at this time last year.
And convictions in gun cases are getting hard to win:
In part, that’s because of the public’s concern over police tactics in the wake of high-profile shootings of African-Americans by police officers around the country, according to both prosecutors and defense attorneys.
It's not so much as a "guess" as connecting the dots. That decrease in stops was by design:
...tied to a departmental change that took effect in January, requiring officers to fill out a far more detailed form for each one. The change was imposed after the American Civil Liberties Union raised questions about whether officers were targeting minorities in their stops.
Well, of course they were. How are you going to target homicides in Chicago without a focus on minorities? Of 3,000 people shot and 506 killed in Chicago, 80 percent were black and another 15 percent hispanic. 95 percent of those killed are black or hispanic in a city that is roughly two-thirds black or hispanic.

So yeah, when it comes to preventing gun violence in Chicago, the police would be remiss if they didn't focus on minorities. And men, too (90 percent of victims). Should police stop more Polish-American women in Jefferson Park? Jefferson Park would love more police presence (if that were possible). (To my surprise, there even was a murder in Jefferson Park last year. One.)

Of last year's murder carnage just 123 suspects have been arrested. The clearance rate was 25 percent. So there's room for improvement there, too. Right now literally hundreds of active murderers are walking around the streets of the South and West Sides of Chicago. 142 murders just through March.

Look, maybe an increase in shootings in Chicago isn't related to decreasing interaction between police and criminals. Maybe there is no cause and effect between attempts to limit and control police activity against young black and hispanic men and an increase in violence among some of these same young black and hispanic men. Yes. It's a guess.

But what if aggressive policing -- and inevitably some of that will cross the line to an illegal stop or search -- actually prevents violence? What if there were a cost to a laser-like and exclusive focus on police misconduct? Reducing police stop in general is one way to reduce illegal police stops and citizen complaints. But maybe it's the wrong way. What if one consequence of focusing only on police misconduct were fewer gun convictions? What if it were more murders? (And God forbid you call this relationship something like the Ferguson Effect, because that doesn't exist.)

Hey, on the plus side, police-involved shootings in Chicago were down in 2015. Mission accomplished, I guess.

Here's the most shameful response to more murdered black men:
Some experts... point out that the numbers in recent years have been below those in the early 1990s, when more than 900 murders were reported some years.
Wow. And so effing what?! Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations. Imagine saying we needn't worry about institutional racism because it's so much less today than it was in the 1960s (and 1860s, for that matter). Or check into a hospital where mortality is up and their response is: "Trying to read too much into this is a grave mistake. We’re all just guessing. Besides, mortality was so much greater in the past."

Also, from the fun info at heyjackass.com, Chicago saw but 7 days in 2015 without a reported shooting or homicide. Seven.

Also, on the subject of the CPD, I'm happy an insider seems to have been tapped to be the next chief of police in Chicago. I have no idea who the person is. But I'm happy it's not another outsider with no real clue coming in to save the day.


aNanyMouse said...

What’s so striking in the numbers you show is that, while stops are down well over 80%, gun seizures are down less than 10%. So at least CPD is making the stops count! But I worry that this reasonably high gun seizure rate isn’t slowing the swift rise of the murder rate. Any thoughts on what factors may explain this disparity?

Also, heyjackass shows that the 2016 murder count is not only almost double that of last year, but also similarly well above every year since ’09, except for 2012 (this one crying out for explanation).

Peter Moskos said...

Yeah. I noticed that too. There are so many known unknowns that I didn't dig down.

How man guns come from stops rather than raids? I don't know. But I suspect, in quantity, most come from drug raids and very few come from frisks. *If* that is true, it would explain why stops are down a bunch but gun seizures down just a bit.

The link between stops and crime isn't from gun seizures but from a general disruption of criminal hanging out (not that that is a crime) and perhaps some deterrence in having people not planning on using a gun not carrying a gun "for protection."

Peter Moskos said...

Also, given that there are 3,000 shootings a year, I'm not certain that gun seizures have any practical relevance except that what leads to a seizure might deter people from carrying? Do people have a tough time getting their hands on a gun? I doubt it. So taking guns off the streets in pretty irrelevant. Kind of like drug seizures having no impact on supply or usage.

Peter Moskos said...

The NYPD, based on frisks (this could be comparing apples to oranges) seizes just a couple of hundred guns a year.


Deterrence from carrying probably matters. Actually taking one gun off the street? Meh.

Adrian said...

I assume all stops are not documented, right? So is there any way (maybe calls for service) to see the change in stops versus the change in documented stops? Maybe with the onerous form, cops are just saying "I'll do the stop, but why document it unless I have nothing else to do/it's a really good one/my sergeant wants more paper".

aNanyMouse said...

Minor typo alert, in your 1:13 AM comment: "So taking guns off the streets IS pretty irrelevant."

Peter Moskos said...

Keep in mind these stop reports end up very quickly in the hands of lawyers calling the person stopped and looking to sue the police department.

john mosby said...

I think we are seeing a real-world test of the old adage "better a hundred guilty men go free...."


Pragmatic Liberaltarian said...

"Of last year's murder carnage just 123 suspects have been arrested. The clearance rate was 25 percent."

What an abysmal clearance rate. Am I wrong to assume such a low clearance rate mostly results from lack of support and cooperation of the community?

Peter Moskos said...

I think you need to be careful in how you define "community." We're talking the criminal community here (as opposed to the broader everybody-who-lives-there community). But yeah, crimes get solved when people who know who did it talk.

IrishPirate said...

What Jefferson Park lacks in gun violence it makes up for in having Chicago's only, I think, totally nude, stripper club.

Let's get down on the gun violence and get up on the stage for the nudity.


Seriously, I think the rate of street stops by cops is down more than the official numbers state in Chicago. I suspect before many stops were done and just not documented. Now those type of stops are not being done. The throw the dealer up against the wall and frisk him stops are likely waaaaaaaaaaaay down.

Why risk putting your career and checking account at risk for informal stops?

Let's let Ed Flynn Milwaukee's top cop rant a bit.


I refuse to hyperlink. The thought of the Admiral Theater has taken all else out of my teeny mind.

campbell said...

Maybe with the onerous form, cops are just saying "I'll do the stop, but why document it unless I have nothing else to do/it's a really good one/my sergeant wants more paper".

IrishPirate is almost certainly right. In a climate where the city is giving all your stops to the ACLU to comb through and contact your subjects looking for a lawsuit no one is going to risk being on the news trying to do their stops on the down low. They're going to stop documented stops AND undocumented stops and give the ACLU exactly what they're asking for. In the end, the police get paid by the hour and they don't live in the neighborhoods where the killing gets done.

Adrian said...

makes sense