There is perhaps no city in America so infamously linked to violence and criminality over recent years than Chicago. The Windy City has been in turmoil for years, especially in its South Side neighborhoods where it is routine for police to report dozens of shootings in a single weekend. In short, Chicago is in crisis.
Since George Floyd, leaders in American cities have adopted policies, most notably defunding their police departments, which have destroyed police morale and effectiveness, and descended their cities into violent turmoil. While Chicago has had a well-documented problem with violent crime prior to Floyd, the violence has only accelerated since the events of last year.
In 2020, “Chicago police also released the final crime number for 2020…which showed that shootings and murders jumped up by more than 50% in 2020,” reported ABC 7 in Chicago.
Even more troubling, statistics show that murders in Chicago are increasing over last year’s incredible numbers.
On September 1st, WBEZ Chicago reported that “Chicago appears headed toward its highest annual homicide count since 1996, when murders totaled 796 at the tail end of a crime wave fueled by crack cocaine.” At the time of that writing, the city had reported 524 murders, a 3% increase over last year.
Amidst an ever-spiraling epidemic of violent crime and murder, the city’s leadership continues to blame everyone but themselves.
In June, the mayor of the city, Lorie Lightfoot, blamed the city’s increasing violence on Covid-19, claiming it closed the court system. This was refuted by the city’s Chief Judge, Tim Evans, through a spokesperson.
Now, a former political opponent and lead contract negotiator for the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, Paul Vallas, says it’s time for Lightfoot and the rest of the city’s leadership to step up and take responsibility for the unacceptable levels of crime in their city.
Vallas told the Chicago Sun-Times that one of the biggest crises faced by Chicago police is an enormous staffing shortage of rank-and-file officers.
Once again, Lightfoot has used Covid-19 as an excuse for a lapse in training new officers. But Vallas isn’t buying it:
“Stop making excuses that COVID has impeded their ability to have large classes to train police officers. … [Bulls owner] Jerry Reinsdorf would give ’em the United Center to do training if they needed to space people out. They could easily run — not one class, they could run two classes. A day shift and a night shift.”
The Sun-Times reports that there are over 1,000 vacant positions on the force, but the new police budget is a de-facto downsizing of the department:
“On Thursday, Vallas pegged the number of vacancies among rank-and-file officers at 1,000. That’s notable, since Lightfoot’s $12.8 billion 2021 budget eliminated 614 police vacancies, shrinking the Chicago Police Department by attrition.”
Vallas also claims that there are roughly 143 vacant sergeant positions, resulting in a shortage of leadership at the upper ranks.
And not only has the city’s new budget only allocated funding for a fraction of the officers needed, the city’s management of the current staffing has resulted in overworked officers and a ballooning overtime budget, according to Vallas.
“What are they gonna pay this year? $200 million or more? … With the contract and the increase in pay, the cost of overtime is even gonna go greater. So the longer they delay in filling vacancies, any dollar savings is gonna be offset by the amount of money paid in overtime. And they’re gonna pay the price in exhausted, demoralized police officers.”
The poor management of the city’s police department has led to a drop in new hires and record numbers of officers retiring or leaving the force altogether.
Almost all the districts in Chicago are suffering equally.
CWB Chicago reports that “19 of the department’s 22 police districts — including all of its most violent — have lost at least 12% of their cops, according to records provided by Chicago’s Office of the Inspector General.”
And the most violent districts have lost more officers than the mean:
“The Gresham District, third-worst in the city for homicides last year, has lost 25% of its beat cops under Brown. The second-worst and worst districts for murder last year, Englewood and Harrison, have both lost 22% of their front-line cops, the data shows.”
While Chicago leadership would like to blame the fallout from Covid-19 for the rise in violence and collapsing police department, a brief look at the city’s management of the situation reveals that Covid-19 has very little to do with it. The Chicago Police Department is hemorrhaging employees and being starved of cash. Covid-19 has not made the city’s government reduce the funding for new hires yet pay record numbers in overtime for the officers they overwork. And Covid-19 is not the reason the officers leave, rather, the management of the force is.
The end result has been both officers and their communities suffering. When the city government decides not to properly staff the departments, officers become outnumbered by gang members and other violent felons.
And tragically, the city’s management of the police force has allowed violent crime and murder to be a way of life in many of Chicago’s worst neighborhoods.
Image Credit: Photo by Neonbrand on Unsplash
As we continue to expand our advocacy in the state through the Police Issues Action Center of Illinois, we wanted to go one level deeper and look specifically at some of the most dangerous areas of the state. Using data from ADT Crime Statistics, here are some of the state’s most dangerous areas.