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by Peter Moskos

December 5, 2013

Good news from Chicago

NBC Chicago Reports via Atlantic Cities:
Chicago closed out the first 11 months of 2013 with 380 murders, a drop from 474 in the same period of 2012, according to police data. That's the fewest for any year in Chicago since 1965, according to Adam Collins, the Chicago Police Department Director of News Affairs.


IrishPirate said...

Herr Doctor Professor,

While this is good news it's also a bit more complicated than the CPD news flack portrays it.

1. The population of Chicago declined by roughly 1/4 during the time period in question.

2. Advances in emergency medicine and rapid medical response are more responsible for the drop in the absolute number of homicide victims than any tactic the police or the larger society has used. Although, I suspect removing lead from gasoline and paint has made a big difference in the crime rate.

2A. I think tracking gunshot victims would be a better indicator than the number of homicides as to the level of violence in society. Just the medical advances in the last ten years have significantly reduced mortality for accident or violence victims.

The powders the military created to stop bleeding during our recent adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan are likely about the only damn good that came out of those wars. Obviously killing Bin Laden would be an exception to that statement.

3. It's difficult to "fudge" or "juke" homicide stats, but on occasion the CPD has been accused of doing just that. If you're shot on a Chicago expressway the State Police "get" the stat and it's not counted as a Chicago homicide. If you're killed in a Chicago Forest Preserve the County takes the hit for their count. Now those numbers are often single digits or even zero in any given year, but you get the idea.

There are also allegations of some homicides being reclassified as suicides or accidents. Now I don't believe that's a frequent occurrence, but I wouldn't discount the possibility.

In a city with a Mayor who touts every achivement, real or imagined, with multiple press releases and press conferences I wouldn't discount the possibility of all kinds of naughty things going on.

Back in the seventies in one of his novels Joseph Wambaugh had an amusing passage about the LAPD classifying a clear homicide as a suicide. It was something about a victim being found hung, bound and shot in the back of the head with no gun in the room.

Is something that egregious likely today? Nope. Is something slightly less egregious likely? Perhaps.

As unlikely as it seems I've seen scientific studies that prove that cops are actually human beings and put enough pressure on human beings over stats and some "tomfoolery" will occur.

PCM said...

Did I ever mention that I tried to read Wambaugh before I was a cop and didn't like him? Too far out, I thought. Then I actually policed. Now I think he's a genius (non-fiction) story teller. He doesn't make that shit up.

It's kind of like when I moved to Baltimore and suddenly realized that John Waters was telling the truth.

It is better to track shooting instead of homicides. The crime "drop" in NYC from 2000-2010 can be entirely accounted for by better E.R. and O.R. treatment. Because shootings didn't decline. (Which is also why the huge drop in NYC shootings the past two years is all the more interesting.)

The problem is that it's a hell of lot harder to get shooting data. It's out there, but because it's not a crime separate from aggravated assault, it's much less accessible than homicides.

Still on a year-to-year comparison basis, I'll take homicides over any and all other crime data. And that means good news for Chicago (and NYC).

And I'm with on the lead connection. It's the only peg that seems to fit all the holes, metaphorically speaking.