Friday, February 1, 2013

UChicago Crime Report: No violent crime in January?? And other thoughts on protests.

While the rest of our city reels from a staggering homicide tally, a string of tragic and public deaths, and a variety of changes in the Chicago Police Department, all is quiet on the Hyde Park front. From January 1 through January 30, the University of Chicago Police Department has not recorded a single violent crime in its daily incident log. Perhaps the UCPD has been too busy with other incidents around campus (or rather, the creation of incidents around campus), but as far as I have found, there have been no records of criminal battery, robbery, assault, or even the dubious "Theft From Person" over the past 30 days. Or rather, there have been none recorded by the UCPD.

All of this should justifiably strike you as suspicious. Citywide crime is receiving national attention, and although we know that Hyde Park is one of the city's safest neighborhood, we should not be wholly immune to Chicago's violence. Given the increase in University prestige this year and in recent years, both the UCPD and the administration have a vested interest in keeping crime low, or at least making it appear low. As a result, we should be wary of an official UCPD report that doesn't have a single incidence of violence in the last month.

I took a few steps to contextualize and double-check this data. First, I compared January 2013 to January 2012 and January 2011. Although it is risky to extrapolate from such a small sample size, especially in regards to something as big as "violent crime", a promising trend emerged.  Over the past 3 years, January crime logs in the UCPD Incident Report have rapidly declined.

UCPD Violent Crime Reports in Hyde Park
Crime January 2011 January 2012 January 2013
Attempted Robbery 1 10
Armed Robbery 8 30
Battery 2 00
Theft from Person 0 10
TOTALS 11 50

Given the heightened UCPD and private security presence on campus, it is very possible that this represents a real reduction in crime over the past years. The sheer number of security personnel in the University area would likely be very daunting for an enterprising criminal, let alone the extensive patrol routes of the UCPD cars. If all of this withstood scrutiny, we would have cause to feel safer and more secure in our daily goings-on about Hyde Park (at least, in January).

All of that being said, we should be suspicious of the caveat that the UCPD itself lists on the Incident Report page: "if an incident is not reported to the UCPD, it will not be listed." Perhaps victims are choosing to call the CPD instead of the UCPD, in the event of an attack. If so, this would account for the supposed decline in area crime; all of the "real" attacks are just getting shunted off to the CPD. Indeed, if we found that CPD reports had greatly increased over the 2011-2013 period, we might be tempted to accuse the UCPD of shipping off calls to the CPD just to lower its own numbers. This is a serious allegation (one I am not making), but it would need to be supported by the evidence.

I compared crimes logged by the CPD over this period to assess this hypothesis. Given the lag time in uploading data to the City Data Portal, I am only considering the period from January 1 through January 24 (the most recent 7 days being unavailable). Although it is possible that those last 7 days saw an unprecedented spree of Hyde Park mayhem, it is exceedingly unlikely. As such, I will be comparing crimes over the past three years only in that period. For area, I used the same police beats as in previous posts on Hyde Park crime. The results are shown below, and they certainly serve to challenge the UCPD picture.

CPD Violent Crime Reports in Hyde Park
Crime January 2011 January 2012 January 2013
Assault 5 65
Battery 24 2216
Criminal Sexual
0 01
Robbery 1 55
Homicide 0 10
TOTALS 30 3427

It doesn't require a statistical test to see that there is no trend over these three years. Crime went up a tiny bit in 2012 and then down again in 2013. But 2012 and 2013 had more robberies than 2011, although 2011 had more batteries. Ultimately, there are no conclusions we can draw from this information other than "crime did not really go down."

As a final test, I looked at only crimes that occurred in the public sphere (i.e. the street, sidewalk, CTA, alleys, etc.). Many of the crimes listed above in the CPD table, especially the batteries, are domestic in nature. Although domestic violence is an awful crime that deserves our care and attention, those cases are not historically reported to the UCPD. The UCPD is responsible for patrolling the surface streets and preventing public crime, so it is unfair to judge Hyde Park's public safety on crimes that would be unlikely to affect the average UChicago student.

Again, this is NOT to downplay the severity of domestic abuse. This separation is done to look at street crime, the sort of crime that security guards and police patrols are most likely to prevent. Domestic violence can absolutely occur on the street, and it is not a "private" crime (indeed, such a characterization really undermines the severity of the crime). But it also does not affect the average pedestrian, especially student, in the same way as a robbery, battery, or assault of a non-domestic nature.

Looking only at non-domestic, public, violent crimes, we get a very different picture of Hyde Park over the past three January months. I excluded crimes that occurred in an apartment or residence just to fully capture the public dimension of these incidents.

CPD Public, Violent, Non-Domestic Crime Reports
Crime January 2011 January 2012 January 2013
Assault 1 01
Battery 3 33
Criminal Sexual
0 00
Robbery 1 22
Homicide 0 00

Although January 2013 still did not have fewer crimes than the previous Januarys, we can clearly see that Hyde Park just does not have a lot of public, non-domestic violence. Robberies, muggings, random attacks, and a variety of other publicized crimes (let alone shootings, stabbings, and murders) just do not happen around here. The UCPD incident logs did not capture those 6 violent crimes, but given how few there were and where they might have occurred/who they might have involved, I am very comfortable saying that this was not an instance of stat-juking. Many of these attacks probably happened away from the formal campus area, and as such were phoned in to the CPD. Or the victims were not students.

As a final note, it is always shocking to see the sheer volume of domestic violence that occurs in a neighborhood. In each January, more than half of the violent incidents were excluded just by virtue of being "domestic".

The UCPD Incident Logs did not include those 6 January 2013 crimes, but we still had an extremely safe January. Indeed, given the fact that the UCPD excluded them, I would bet that those crimes did not involve students or community members directly associated with the University. This is good news for the average UChicagoan, and good news overall for this neighborhood.

Given the UCPD handling of the UCMD protests this past weekend, many community members and UChicagoans are justifiably upset and outraged. In this post, I have so far deliberately refrained from commenting on that issue, the protest, the police, their conduct, the protesters, the University response, etc. I know that there is a temptation to respond to this article "Well, just because there weren't robberies doesn't mean it was safe: Just look at the UCMC protesters! And look at their 'attackers' ! " or some variation thereof.

A number of my friends and readers have asked about my thoughts on that issue, and I am still formulating them and letting the evidence come in. As a brief reaction, I will say the following.
    The UCPD did not need to physically arrest anyone (they could have just ushered them off site, talked them down, called the dean, etc.), and the University really does not need to press formal charges. Moreover, the University does have a real responsibility to help Chicago, and in many respects it is falling short in that obligation. The protesters were right to protest this failing.
    The UCPD, for its part, definitely has a strained relationship with the community, both in the neighborhood and just at this school. Indeed, police generally have such a strained relationship, especially in regards to black and minority citizens. Those relationships need to improve in the future, and incidents like this do not help.

    Let's talk about the officer use of physical force. I have watched the video repeatedly, and from a martial perspective the arresting officers were very professional and judicial in their actual application of the takedown. That is to say, their physical handling of protesters was done with high standards of martial professionalism. In Self-Defense club, we do that particular throw (a leg sweep to the ground) a lot in training. These three trained police officers, each weighing at least 180+ pounds with decades years of training and experience, did it with less speed, force, and power than my relatively inexperienced UChicago students in Self Defense Club. This was a conscious choice as part of a humane arrest.
    Perhaps it seems a minor point, but I often hear about how brutal the arrest was, and that just simply isn't the case from that video alone. Of course, the UCPD did not need to arrest the protesters in the first place. But once they did, they at least did so with a minimal level of force. Again, perhaps a minor point, but as a martial artist I need to make it.
    Finally, and maybe most importantly, I am not convinced that a trauma center is the best way for UChicago to leverage its power, wealth, and impact in helping the South Side. More on that later, but the medical literature strongly suggests that a trauma center would not save lives: there is just no strong correlation between decreased transit time (30 minutes to 20-10 minutes) and patient survival. Should UChicago use its money to increase social, health, and education services on the South Side? Absolutely. This institution must do more of that, and it is currently not doing enough. But a trauma center might not be the most cost-effective or outright impactful solution. 
That was less brief than I intended, but serious issues like this merit serious replies. Until next time, stay safe, stay aware, and stay smart. 

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