Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Chicago Crime: Police strategies not working


 Chicago violence is on the rise at a level unprecedented since 2002 and 2008. CPD strategies are not working and there are still three more hot summer months.

Compstat. Violence boxes. Saturated area policing. Gang audits. These terms are at the core of the CPD's strategy for this new year under Superintendent Garry McCarthy. And since Garry started unveiling these strategies in May, he keeps promising us that the next weekend will be better than this one, that the numbers really are not as bad as they seem. He claims we are suffering from a "perception" problem of high crime, not from actual high crime itself. I was skeptical, but willing to give faith. At least, until the last 4 days.

15 shot Tuesday
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-chicago-violence-july-3july-4-4-teens-shot-in-southwest-side-driveby-20120703,0,5556828.story

9 dead, 22 wounded over weekend
http://www.suntimes.com/news/crime/13552412-418/weekend-shootings-leave-9-dead-22-wounded.html

These are outrageous numbers. They are not so much outrageous in their magnitude as in their context. 9 dead and 22 wounded in a weekend is actually a huge improvement, objectively speaking, from the past weekends of 7 dead and 40-50 shot. But then you need to consider the context of those statistics.

As anyone who lived in Chicago will tell you, we had a rainy weekend this past Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It rained on and off all Friday, including at night. The same goes for Sunday evening. Historically, shootings don't really happen in the rain. It's not that there is some secret, unwritten rule of gangsters that thou shalt not shoot in the rain. Criminals, like you and me, don't want to go outside and get drenched. There just aren't too many people out in the rain, and similarly, not too many crimes going on. And there was a LOT of rain this weekend.

So the fact that Chicago accumulated 31 shootings in a weekend that was dominated by thunderstorms is remarkable. Imagine if there had not been rain! We might have tacked on another 10 victims into that tally. For all the money and expertise supposedly being dumped into the CPD strategies, there is still no crime deterrent better than a good downpour.

And then there is Tuesday. 15 shootings within 6 hours. On a TUESDAY? Tuesday is normally a slow crime day. Until this week! Admittedly, here is some weather-related explanation for this. Tuesday's heat index was at a solid 102 degrees F, with flat temperatures ranging from 92 through 97. This isn't Arizona or Sahara heat either, the crisping sun that mummifies kings and camels. This is the Norwegian sauna, except everywhere you go. Stand behind a car exhaust pipe as it belches gas at you. That is how it feels, minus the stench, everywhere in the city.

That said, high temperatures and humidity do not necessarily lead to higher crime. There are dozens of factors involved in crime increases and decreases, and weather is just one. Amongst those factors, weather is just an amplifier, magnifying the effects of other parts of the crime picture. Hot weather just gets people outside and keeps them there (remember, it's actually hotter in the oven-like apartments of the South and West sides). If there is already a disposition towards conflict and violence on the streets, the heat will only make it more acute. Folks like my readers probably get irritable and bothered in the heat, and are more prone to verbally lash out. Young men of the cliques get out their guns and are itching to point and pull. An argument over a woman that was once confined to texts and Facebook will erupt if the parties meet on the sidewalk, covered in sweat seeking a cool breeze away from their furnace home.

So yes, high temperatures make things worse. But last summer was hot too. So was the summer before that. Only in 2012 are we seeing an almost 40% uptick in homicides from the past 4 years. Heat is not the only explanation, because it is only a few degrees hotter now than it was in the past summers. Something else is going on, and one thing is certain; current CPD strategies are failing at preventing the violence.

Chicago is deploying city-funded CeaseFire interrupters into some of these neighborhood to hold back the violence, but it remains to be seen how effective this strategy will be. Garry promised results with his strategies, and every week he promised it was getting better. This weekend shows that the trend is still going up and the CPD can do little to hold it back. For now, the CPD strategies are just not working. Crime is on the rise, and as the summer months get hotter, the violence promises to only get worse.

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