Wednesday, April 10, 2013

April safety briefing - Hyde Park crime map and trends

Spring is coming to Chicago, and that means Cubs games losses, ankle deep puddles, the return of street cleaning (move your cars now!), and increased violent crime. For students at UChicago, April is a month where we often see an uptick in robberies and batteries around Hyde Park, which can be particularly dangerous for students more concerned with finishing their thesis papers and dumpster diving for Scavenger Hunt. This article is a detailed overview of April crime in Hyde Park. Although it is always risky to extrapolate crime patterns from one specific month (it's not like criminals follow a reliable monthly schedule, to say nothing of all he variables affecting crime), it serves as a good entry point to give students and community members an idea about what violent crime might look like in this rainy and warmer spring month. We will be looking at April data for the past 6 years. I will talk about the where (blocks), when (times/days), and what (types of incidents) of April crime, giving you the information you need to have a safe start to your spring quarter.

(Note: As with previous articles of this nature, I am only looking at violent crime that occurred in a public space, such as the street, sidewalk, a park, etc. I am also excluding all crimes classified as "Domestic" by the Chicago Police Department; these incidents are less likely to affect the average bystander than more targeted attacks)

As in the greater city of Chicago, crime is not uniformly distributed across Hyde Park.
  • 31% of all April violent crimes (43 incidents) happens south of the Midway, disproportionately concentrated near 61st and Cottage, and 61st/62nd and Kimbark. 
  • Another 20% of April violence (28 incidents) occurs in the West Hyde Park area bounded by 55th and 53rd Streets, and Woodlawn and Cottage Grove.
The UChicago campus itself has been extremely safe for these past 6 years. In that time, only about 10 incidents occurred near campus buildings. Although there are notable exceptions to this, underscoring the need for constant awareness, the closer you are to the University itself, the safer you will be. But even so, try and keep those iPhones in your pockets.

I created the Google map below to show the April distribution of violent crimes across Hyde Park. You can click on any individual point to get some more detailed information about the incident, including its date, time, and type of attack. The map points are colored based off of the type of crime:
  • Brown Dot: Assault
  • Yellow Dot: Battery
  • Red Dot: Robbery
  • Red Flag: Homicide
  • Yellow Flag: Sexual Assault

If it looks like Hyde Park has a lot of scary dots, just remember that this is a) 6 year data and b) a lot less crime than we see in other neighborhoods across the city. The Woodlawn and Englewood maps would be almost unreadable if we just plotted Simple Battery (punching, slapping, pushing, etc.) alone, let alone robbery and assault.

For the most part, Hyde Park crimes are similar to those committed across the rest of the city, at least compared to neighborhoods with similar income levels.
  • Battery was the most common crime in Hyde Park, accounting for 44% of all crimes (60). This was followed by robbery (33%, 45) and assault (20%, 27).
  • There were only 2 homicides and 1 reported incident of Criminal Sexual Assault in Hyde Park over this time period. 
  • Most Hyde Park violent crime is commited by unarmed perpetrators. Over the past 6 Aprils, just 30% of incidents (39) involved a gun, knife, or other weapon.
  • The vast majority of batteries (80%) involved unarmed perpetrators.
    Robberies were split between unarmed, strongarm incidents (58%) and armed attacks involving guns (33%) or knives and other dangerous weapons (6%).
The table below gives a bigger picture of all the April violent crime that occurred in Hyde Park. Remember that this just reflects reported incidents and not those attacks which are excluded from the CPD database.

April violent crimes in Hyde Park: 2007 - 2012
Type Description # of incidents
All Assault 27
Simple Assault
Aggravanted Assault - Gun
Aggravated Assault - Knife/Other
All Battery 60
Simple Battery
Aggravated Battery - Gun
Aggravated Battery - Knife/Other
All Robbery 45
Strongarm Robbery
Armed Robbery - Gun
Armed Robbery - Knife/Other
Criminal Sexual
Homicide 2

It is impossible to know which of these crimes are more likely to affect students and which are more likely to affect residents and members of the greater community. As a good general rule, however, anyone can be the victim of any crime (Except for Homicide; it is extremely unlikely that a UChicago student would be killed, although it tragically did happen in late 2007).

If you had an overly protective mother like mine, then you probably have heard that some hours of the day are more dangerous than others: "Be home before dark!" "Be careful taking the train at night!" These common sense expressions might hint at the uneven distribution of crime throughout the day, but in the case of Hyde Park at least, are very misleading.
  • From 2007 through 2012, the most dangerous time of day was between 3:00 and 5:00 PM. 22% of all daily crime occurred during that time period, with 16% happening just between 4:00 and 5:00 PM. This fact was quite scary to me. Late afternoon is a high traffic time of the day where most pedestrians are off-guard and just happy to be done with their day of work and classes. Stay alert!
  • The three hours between 8:00 and 11:00 PM were also high crime windows, with about 25% of all Hyde Park violence occurring during that time. When you head out to a party or for a late night snack, do not forget your basic awareness skills.
  • Early morning crime is very rare in Hyde Park (and in general). From 1:00 AM through 8:00 AM, there were only 18 incidents reported in April for all 6 years combined.
Again, we must acknowledge that crime trends often fluctuate wildly throughout the years, so there is some risk in comparing previous Aprils to previous Aprils. But the time trends of the Aprils is very similar to the overall time trends of year-round Hyde Park data, so I am comfortable giving them.

The graph below gives a time frequency distribution for April violent crime in Hyde Park. The 4:00- 5:00 PM spike is impossible to miss, as is the relative safety of the early morning.

None of this is to suggest that you should change your daily plans to avoid criminal behavior. It isn't as if criminals are lurking around the outskirts of campus waiting to jump hapless UChicago students after their 4:20 PM class ends. But this graphic does emphasize the need for constant vigilance and awareness, and the seamless incorporation of those skills into your daily routine.

Hyde Park crime is relatively stable throughout the week, which might come as a surprise to many Chicagoans. We often think of Fridays and Saturdays, especially at night, as the most dangerous days of the week. Although this is absolutely true of shootings (i.e. aggravated battery with a handgun), it is not true of other crimes like robbery, assault, and simple battery. This suggests that students should be aware of crimes during all days of the week.

The graph below breaks down the three different violent crime types (assault, battery, robbery) by day, aggregating data from the past 6 Aprils. Although some crimes appear to occur on one day more than others, I would caution against reading too much into this from this data alone. The graphic is just to give some sense of the relative consistency of crime throughout the week.

This is one of those great examples of crime data not following any discernable patterns or trends. Hyde Park violence just happens during all days of the week with no clear rhyme or reason. Sure, with additional analytial tools (anyone up for some Wednesday afternoon regressions?) we could probably pick out more patterns over a larger dataset. But from a pure self-defense perspective, everyone should just be looking at this data and realizing that "crime just happens".

The reality of interpersonal crime and violence is a lot messier than the data will suggest. Looking back to the crime versus time plot above, we can see that only 1 Hyde Park resident experienced any sort of violence at 7:00 AM in the last 6 years. But if you yourself were that 1 victim, the percentages and probabilities wouldn't mean a thing.

Numbers like those given in this article are just a starting point for common sense self-defense techniques. You always want to be aware and alert, whether it you are taking an evening stroll through West Englewood or a morning jog through Lincoln Park. But in some cases, the data might inform you to be extra wary. For instance, if you were walking down 62nd and Kimbark at 4:30 PM this coming Friday, you might want to exercise more caution than if you were doing the same on 57th and Woodlawn.

As always, be safe, remain alert, and stay safe out there.

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