Sunday, February 24, 2013

Chicago Safety Mythbusting: Two UChicago Campus Safety Myths

INTRODUCTION
UChicago students love to worry about safety. High profile Chicago crime, combined with local incidents and anecdotes, contribute to a constant state of vague dread about our collective safety, like an impending problem set for O-Chem or upcoming B.A. thesis draft. And as with most widely-upheld beliefs, the UChicago crime scare does have some truth. Our students are certainly victims of both theft and violent crime, with many incidents occurring in Hyde Park and even on campus itself. But as might be expected, there is far more myth than reality to these fears. Veteran PhD candidates, eager first-years, and even wide-eyed prospective applicants have more misunderstandings about local crime than they do about Plato's cave, Kant's categorical imperative, or Machiavelli's prince. Local Chicagoans are no better, with most residents thinking that anywhere south of Roosevelt and west of Western is a veritable warzone.

In this new series on Chicago safety, I am going to leverage criminological, social work, and martial knowledge to pry apart the myths from the realities. Because much of my audience does attend the University itself, many myths will focus around UChicago. Other posts will tackle myths from across the city, leaving our home of Hyde Park. Some myths will be knocked down from their public pedestal. Others will have their core of truth revised and refined. Still others might be flat out "proven" (a rare occurrence, to be sure). In the end, I hope to give us both a better understanding of Chicago safety and heightened knowledge about Chicago crime and violence.

Finally, if there are any safety myths that YOU want to try and bust or confirm, post a comment, send an email, find me on Facebook, and just ask your question!

(NOTE: For a discussion about the tools and sources used to assess the myths, see the section at the end of the article on "METHODS")

UCHICAGO SOUTH CAMPUS SAFETY 
The Midway and South of 61st Street
University construction projects south of the Midway raise a lot of questions. Will UChicago threaten to expand south of its traditional border, 61st Street? How will community members react to increased University presence and rising housing prices? Where on earth is all that money coming from during a recession? And, most importantly for our purposes, are students safe when they journey south of the Midway? Today, we are going to look at two common myths (and realities) about South Campus safety at UChicago. The conclusions are given up here in nice bullet points for easy access. The arguments and supporting evidence are given below.

  • MYTH #1: "Students get mugged while crossing the Midway!!"
    REALITY: Students might get mugged after crossing the Midway, but it is still extremely unlikely
    VERDICT: Busted!
    • Don't worry about the Midway! It is exceedingly unlikely that you will be a victim of violent crime.
    • Incidents are more likely to occur immediately after you leave the Midway than when you are crossing
    • The Midway crossing is basically 100% safe during the day.
    • The Midway crossing is safest from November through April.  
    • Be aware after crossing the Midway on BOTH sides.
    • Crimes that occur around the Midway are generally strongarm robberies with no weapons

And the second myth of the day...

  • MYTH #2: "It's unsafe to journey south of 61st Street!"
    REALITY: "There are specific areas and times south of 61st Street that are unsafe" 
    VERDICT: Mostly Confirmed
    • The area south of 61st Street (North Woodlawn) has significantly more violent street crime than the rest of Hyde Park.
    • The area bordered by Woodlawn Avenue in the west, Stony Island in the East, 61st in the North, and 63rd in the South is the most dangerous part of North Woodlawn, with more violent incidents. This is called the "Red Zone".
    • The area bordered by Woodlawn Avenue in the east, Drexel in the West, 61st in the North, and 63rd in the South is comparatively less dangerous, with fewer violent incidents. This is called the "Green Zone".

                          
    • In both zones, all types of violent crime (robberies, batteries, assaults, etc.) are equally likely.
    • In both zones, crime happens throughout the year regardless of weather or temperature; always be alert and aware!
    • In both the Red and Green Zones, crime is highest between 4:00 and 11:00 PM. Looking at just the Red Zone, the least safe time of day is between 4:00 and 6:00 PM. For the Green Zone, crime is more evenly distributed throughout the late afternoon evening.  

Of course, all of you should be leery of conclusions without evidence. The supporting arguments are detailed below. I only give the takeaways for those that don't necessarily have time (or interest) to work through the statistics, data, and argumentation.

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MYTH #1: MIDWAY CRIME
Myth: "Students get mugged while crossing the Midway!!"

Reality: Students might get mugged after crossing the Midway, but it is extremely unlikely 
VERDICT: Busted!


This myth is less common today than it was probably five years ago, but I still hear it spoken casually amongst students. In the big picture, from January 2009 through February 2013, the Midway was actually one of the safest place you could be in all Hyde Park (unless you were playing Humans vs. Zombies, but undead crime is excluded from the CPD dataset). In that 4 year time period, only ONE single violent incident occurred on the Midway itself. Indeed, you were more in danger right after leaving the Midway and getting onto the streets than you were during the crossing! But that being said, the raw number of incidents was comparatively tiny. It is just very, very unlikely that you would be the victim of violent crime around the Midway. 

The map below illustrates violent street crime (assault, battery, robbery) on and immediately around the Midway from January 2009 through February 2013.

Midway violent incidents, January 2009 - February 2013
You can see that single Midway crime right under the Hospital on the left (under the E.59th St. label). That incident was a Simple Battery that occurred in 2011 just before 7:00 PM. Except for that incident, however, the Midway crossing was completely devoid of crime.

Only after looking past the grassy Midway itself do serious incidents start to occur, but there are still just not many. According to the CPD, there were 15 such reports in the past 4 years, distributed evenly across all years; less than 4 per year. They can be seen on the streets bordering the Midway (59th St. and 60th St.). Although there just aren't many incidents to analyze, I can still offer some (tentative and statistically insignificant) conclusions about Midway safety.

  • MOST IMPORTANT: There is not a lot of violent crime around the Midway!!
    TAKEAWAY: Don't worry about the Midway! It is exceedingly unlikely that you will be a victim of violent crime.
  • Of the violent incidents that occurred around the Midway, almost all of them happened between 4:00 PM and Midnight.
    TAKEAWAY: The Midway crossing is basically 100% safe during the day.
  • The vast majority of incidents occurred between May and October, with only a few occurring in January, November, or April.
    TAKEAWAY: The Midway crossing is safest from November through April. 
  • There were as many violent Midway incidents on 59th Street as there were on 60th Street.
    TAKEAWAY: Be aware after crossing the Midway on BOTH sides.
  • Only one of the violent incidents involved a weapon (a knife). None involved handguns. Almost all others were hand-to-hand, strongarm robberies.
    TAKEAWAY: The most common Midway crimes are robberies, but they are less "serious" than other violence around Hyde Park.

I offer these conclusions as a concerned and overprotective martial artist/self-defense instructor than as a social worker and statistician. In the final analysis, the Midway is one of the safest places you can be on campus no matter the time of day or year.

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MYTH #2: 61st STREET BORDER
Myth: "It's unsafe to journey south of 61st Street!"

Reality: "There are specific areas and times south of 61st Street that are unsafe"  
Verdict: MOSTLY CONFIRMED

According to most UChicago students, 61st Street is where the big bad South Side really starts. From a technical perspective, it is the municipal boundary between Hyde Park and Woodlawn, a historical divider between the University and its southmost neighborhood. Unlike with the Midway myth, the 61st Street myth actually has better supporting evidence. It turns out that there is quite a bit of violent street crime in this area, and all of it has the potential to affect students and community members. The map below gives some idea about just how many incidents that the CPD reported in the past 4 years.

North Woodlawn (i.e. "South of 61st Street") violent incidents, January 2009 - February 2013
STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE (p < .001) IN AREA CRIME!
MORE DOTS! (excuse the computer game joke). But seriously, that's a lot of dots. In fact, if we look at our entire crime dataset from January 2009 - February 2013, the incidents in the North Woodlawn area above (61st - 63rd Street, Cottage - Stony) account for a spectacular 45% of all area crime (approximately 700 of 1550 incidents). But is that meaningful? Or just clever spinning of percentages?

North Woodlawn area comparison
Let's look at that a little more critically. The area south of 61st Street comprises roughly 15% of the total geographic area of the UChicago/Hyde Park region as I have defined it (it's actually probably closer to 10%, but we can be generous). The adjacent map shows that comparison between the "UChicago/Hyde Park" and the "South of 61st" areas. The 61st zone is shaded in red.

Knowing that this Woodlawn area makes up 15% of the total geographic area of Hyde Park lets us look at crime distribution. Specifically, now we can see if it is significant that 45% of crime occurs in this 15% of the community. This is one of the few times where you don't even need statistics to verify that this is a giant imbalance, but it is nice to confirm mathematically.

After running a hypothesis test of sample proportions, we find that there is a hugely significant difference (Z = -27.59, P < .001) between the distribution of crime south and north of 61st. This gives strong statistical suggestion that we should not be expecting a whopping 45% of crime to occur in just 15% of the community.

Of course, this is not enough to just conclude that the area is unsafe. Before we all flee in terror from South Campus and other housing south of the Midway, we need to take a closer look at the crime even within the Northern Woodlawn area. Things aren't quite as bad as they first seem, especially once we start going block by block. 
  
COTTAGE AND STONY IMBALANCE THE DATA
To start, we really need to remove that giant block of dots on Cottage Grove (on the far left of the map). The same goes for the column of dots in the lower right corner off of Stony. These are areas that UChicago students and staff do not travel; even employees of the University will pick up public transportation north of these areas just to avoid this kind of violence, getting on the bus around 57th Street. There is a larger issue of community violence and University engagement at play here, but that is beyond the scope of this specific article; as you know from my previous posts and career, I am very much dedicated to that issue, but it is too much to tackle here. I am willing to assume that students and community members will willfully avoid these areas, so it is reasonable to remove those dots from the picture for a close analysis.

Interestingly enough, even if we remove the Cottage and Stony dots from the picture, we still find a significant difference between crime in the North Woodlawn area and the rest of Hyde Park (p < .0001)!

THE "SAFER" ZONE: 60th -> 62nd, Drexel --> Woodlawn) 
THE "LESS SAFE" ZONE: 60th --> 62nd, Woodlawn --> Metra)
STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCES (p < .01) IN CRIME
Within the North Woodlawn area itself, there are still important crime differences between blocks. It turns out that most of the crime is again happening within a comparatively small set of blocks, just as a disproportionate amount of crime was occurring in North Woodlawn compared to the rest of Hyde Park. I have marked out the boundaries of this distinction defined above, showing the higher crime and lower crime areas of North Woodlawn. The map below shades those two areas in green (the "safer" zone) and red (the "less safe" zone).

"Green Zone" vs. "Red Zone", North Woodlawn
(I shouldn't need to disclaim this to my audience, but just in case, this coloration and exercise is not to make any judgment or valuation about residents in this area, the South Side, or even criminals. This shading is simply done to provide safety tips to UChicago students, and although that might perpetuate South Side inequities to some extent, my primary obligation to the students that I teach in self-defense club is their own personal protection. The "Green" zone is colored as such because it has higher relative safety to the "Red" zone, and that distinction needs to be made.)

Violent street crime is not evenly split between these two areas. In the past 4 years, the red zone had 107 violent street crimes. The green zone had 92. If we were to just compare raw numbers, that doesn't seem like a big difference. Unfortunately, the comparative SIZE of those two areas makes the crime difference imbalanced. The green zone is roughly 1.5 times the size of the red zone, but has only 85% of its crime. The question we again must ask: Is this a significant difference?

Using the same test as earlier, I confirm that there is a significant difference (Z = 2.8, P < .01) between the number of crimes in the green area and those in the red area. Although that does not necessarily mean that you are individually more likely to be the victim of red zone crime than green zone crime, it does mean that the red zone just has more crime than the green zone.

RED AND GREEN ZONE CRIMES, MONTHS, AND TIMES
Having confirmed, or at least strongly supported, the red and green zone distinction, I can now break down the crime that occurs in these areas to answer a few questions. First: Are some crimes more likely to occur in one zone than the other? For example, am I more likely to get robbed in the Red Zone than in the Green Zone? Or assaulted? It turns out that, although the two areas have significant differences in number of incidents, they have no difference in crime distribution. The table below breaks down the violent street crime by type, separating the two colored zones.

# of Violent Incidents in North Woodlawn
Crime "Green Zone" "Red Zone"
Simple Assault 14 12
Simple Battery 21 28
Agg. Assault: Firearm 5 8
Agg. Battery: Firearm 7 11
Agg. Assault: Other 0 1
Agg. Battery: Other 2 8
Strongarm Robbery 18 17
Armed Robbery: Handgun 22 16
Armed Robbery: Other 3 5
Homicide 0 1
TOTAL 92 106

Going incident by incident, you will notice that the distribution of crimes appears to be roughly the same in each zone. In fact, statistically speaking, the distribution of crimes in the green and red zones is completely insignificant (χ2 = 8.72, DF = 9, p = .46). This suggests that no individual crime is more likely to occur in one zone than in the other, even if the red zone has comparatively more total crime than the green.

What about the months during which these crimes occur? Everyone in Chicago knows that summers are far more dangerous and violent than wintry months. Does that hold true in the North Woodlawn area near UChicago? Close analysis shows that, for the most part, crimes are more or less equally distributed throughout all months in a year. That is to say, in both the red and green zones, there are just as many violent incidents in December as in July (at least, with two noteworthy exceptions...)

North Woodlawn Violent Incidents by Month
Month "Green Zone" "Red Zone"
January 7 2
February 8 4
March 8 8
April 6 11
May 4 12
June 8 9
July 11 8
August 10 7
September 9 11
October 8 10
November 9 11
December 4 13
TOTAL 92 106

There were no significant differences in the distribution of violent crime in the two zones (χ2 = 15.12, DF = 11, p = .18). Although some months might appear different at first glance (notably May and December), when considering all the months together, that kind of variation is just to be expected. As a whole, this information is quite interesting because it challenges conventional ideas around Chicago seasonal crime. At least in these two areas of North Woodlawn, crime happens throughout the year no matter the temperature or weather. That suggests travelers in these zones need to maintain awareness and caution no matter whether it is the middle of a blazing summer or a peaceful winter night.

On the other hand, we see a huge difference in crime distribution when looking at the times of incidents themselves (i.e. "crime times"). This will be unsurprising to longtime readers of this blog. Some times of the day, like 4:00 PM and 10:00 PM, are notorious for high rates of violent crime. Other times, like 6:00 AM, are consistently low. Although there are counterexamples to these trends (e.g. robberies that happen at 7:30 AM and summer nights without a single shooting at 11:00 PM), they are reliable general rules for Chicago safety.

The two North Woodlawn zones offer a great example of these guidelines in action. In both zones, 4:00 - 11:00 PM is by far the least safe time during the day, with the vast majority of annual incidents occurring then. Although there are differences in the zones themselves (red zone crime is worst at 5:00 PM, green zone is more spread out) this is a good general rule to follow. The graphs below show the time frequency of crimes in the individual and the combined areas.


I apologize if the Christmas color scheme offends anyone's optical sensibilities.

Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of any of these graphs is the outrageous 5:00 PM spike in the red zone. That is just not the best time to be out and about in North Woodlawn unless are accustomed to being aware and ready at all times. Indeed, that entire period from 4:00 PM until 11:00 PM is just not particularly safe. Closer examination of the data shows that these time trends hold steady (more or less) throughout all months of the year. As such, I am comfortable making these generalizations about crime time in the area.

This is also where it is helpful to support statistical data with personal experience. Having lived in the area for 3 years now, I can say that these times of day are absolutely unsafe. I have never been the victim of violence in this area, but I have definitely felt threatened and intimidated while going for runs or walks during the nicer months of the year. Groups of young men will glare, taunt, goad, and generally posture as you go by. I have been followed by an individual and a pair of individuals on more than one occasion, and I don't mean "followed" in the sense of us both sharing a route and destination. I mean "followed" in the sense of pointing in my direction, looking over their own shoulders, and trying to keep a brisk pace in time with my own. There is a time and a place for social work. But when you are walking alone on 62nd and Kimbark at 5:15 PM in May, that is not the opportune therapeutic moment.

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METHODS
All data comes from the CPD Clearpath statistics presented in the City of Chicago Data Portal. For the purposes of this article, I only looked at non-domestic, violent crimes that occurred in streets, alleys, sidewalks, parks, etc.; outdoor street violence that would be most likely to affect a UChicago student. This included Battery, Assault, Robbery, Homicide, and Criminal Sexual Assault. "Thefts" were excluded because there is no way to separate out actual thefts from cars or stores and the more dubious "Theft from Person" crimes.

Graphs were made in Excel using data from the CPD dataset, adjusted for the filters discussed above. Crimes were plotted on the map using latitudes and longitudes in the CPD dataset, so if there are any discrepancies between those mapped locations and the actual ones, it is because the error lies in the dataset itself.

Finally, I feel obliged to offer yet another disclaimer about community sensitivity. My goal in these posts is not to villainize certain parts of the Hyde Park/Woodlawn community, nor is it to negatively portray the residents of those neighborhoods. Similarly, my intent is not to oversimplify the complex phenomenon of community violence. All that being said, the information presented in this post is given to address student safety not student civic and community engagement. There is a time and a place for one and there is a time and place for the other, a fact that I know well as a lifelong Chicagoan, a trained social worker, and as a martial artist. There are broader social takeaways that we could draw from this information (why exactly is there more crime at 5:00 PM in the so-called red zone?), but that is not helpful in the moment of an assault or battery.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

UCPD records first 2013 violent crime - Why did it take so long?


The 2:30 PM "Battery" incident of 2/13/2013, in which an unprovoked male pushed a subject to the ground and fled on foot, marks the first violent crime recorded by the UCPD in the new year. In all that time, UChicago's police department has recorded zero robberies, zero assaults and batteries, and even zero of the dubious "Theft From Person" incidents. Did Hyde Park just have no violent crime? Nope! A simple query of city data shows that the CPD, in roughly the same patrol area as the UCPD, recorded 22 violent incidents. So why does the UCPD have a big fat 0 in that area?

Of course, as an earlier post of mine discussed, the UCPD Incident Reports are far from comprehensive; by its own admission, the Department only records crimes that are directly reported to their phones, not those called in straight to the CPD. In previous years, we always expect to see the UCPD reporting only a fraction of crimes that are reported to the CPD. But 0? That just seems too unusual.

In this piece, I try and answer some key questions about this apparent anomaly. Is the UCPD "juking" the stats, or it is just out of the crime-reporting loop? Is Hyde Park crime really so much better today than in past years? Or is random statistical error to blame for all these differences? Analyzing the last 5 years of CPD and UCPD data, I will offer three takeaway points.
  1. Hyde Park violent crime has actually dropped over the past 5 years!
  2. But crimes reported by the UCPD have also significantly dropped over the past 5 years... 
  3. To explain this decline, we have to turn away from some obvious answers and find some more nuanced ones. As will be shown, the best explanation has nothing to do with crime but everything to do with small changes to the UCPD structure itself. 
(NOTE ABOUT DATES: Why look at just the past 5 years, 2009 through 2013, and not a wider range? The UCPD only has full incident report data from January 2009 through February 2013. Its 2008 incident reports don't start until July, and it has no data whatsoever before that. Because we ultimately want to assess the accuracy of the UCPD data, we need to make sure we are comparing apples to apples.

Additionally, observant readers will notice that the first battery happened on 2/13, but subsequent analysis only looks at the 1/1 through 2/6 range. Why omit the last few days? CPD data has a 7 day backlog, and I don't want to wait until 2/21 to run an analysis that has relevance right now). 


METHODS
In conducting this analysis, I compared UCPD violent incident reports to CPD violent incident reports in the same period and geographic location. The goal was to find similarities or discrepancies between their numbers. Here is a brief discussion of my methodology: 
  • Violent crime defined broadly
    The UCPD, CPD, and other criminologists like to define "violent crime" as aggravated (armed/deadly force) batteries/assaults, homicides,  robberies, and sexual assaults. Although these crimes are all certainly violent, this definition excludes 2 other categories of crime that need to be included. The first is "simple" battery and assault, incidents in which the offender was unarmed and using non-lethal force (pushes, punches, shoves, angry words, etc.). The second is sexual harassment or other inappropriate sexual advances, such as groping, touching, threats, and so on.
  • CPD Data from CLEAR system
    As usual, all CPD reports are from the City of Chicago Data Portal. The crime dataset being used "reflects reported incidents of crime (with the exception of murders where data exists for each victim) that occurred in the City of Chicago from 2001 to present, minus the most recent seven days. Data is extracted from the Chicago Police Department's CLEAR (Citizen Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting) system" (Source).
  • UCPD Data from Daily Incident Reports
    All UCPD reports are taken from the Daily Incident page on the UCPD website.
  • No "Domestic" incidents
    There are a lot of reasons for excluding domestic incidents, but two are most relevant for this analysis. For one, domestic incidents are rarely called in to the UCPD. That tends to be a CPD affair and the number show it; in the past 5 years, the UCPD has only reported 2-3 domestic incidents. In the same area, the CPD recorded over 1,000. Clearly the UCPD is not in the business of investigating domestic violence, and it is unfair to count those numbers against them if the victims are just calling 911.
    Second, there are a lot of criminological differences between intimate partner and domestic attacks and "street crime". The UCPD is known mostly for its patrols, and the majority of Chicago domestic crime occurs indoors, not on the streets.
The accompanying map shows the geographic area under consideration. This is an area in which students and UChicago community members live, and most importantly, an area in which the UCPD patrols and places blue light phones. It is unfair to hold UCPD units accountable for crimes that occur outside of this area because that is not where they patrol. From a neighborhood perspective, this area includes all of Hyde Park plus the northernmost part of Woodlawn and the southernmost areas of Kenwood.

As a final note, yes, I know that the UCPD claims to patrol from 63rd to 39th street, but we all know that in practice this is untrue. We can have a separate conversation about their responsibilities to the community and their successes/failures in that regard, but for now, we want to be as conservative as possible. That means holding them responsible only for the area in which most of their units are, an area that is likely to call the UCPD, and an area that is widely considered to be Hyde Park and the University of Chicago.

I cleaned up the CPD and UCPD data to reflect the criteria mentioned above (all violent crimes, no domestic incidents, and only those crimes occurring in the geographic area pictured above).

Having established the methods, I can now go on to the possible explanations for this supposed lack of violent crime. 

IS HYDE PARK LESS VIOLENT IN 2013? 
The most obvious explanation for the low 2013 numbers is that 2013 is just less less violent. Perhaps Hyde Park has had such a drop in violence that there is no need to call the UCPD any more. Sure, some residents might still need to call the CPD from time to time, but under this theory, violence has dropped so much that the UCPD just has nothing to do around Hyde Park anymore.

How can we confirm or deny this explanation? To start, we need to look at UCPD incident reports over the years to see if 2013 is the continuation of a downward trend. The following graph shows violent incidents reported by the UCPD in the Hyde Park area. Without any statistical analysis, it is pretty clear that, at least according to the UCPD, violent incidents have experienced a massive decline.

That's a promising trend! In fact, if we were to see that trend anywhere else, we would probably just declare that crime has been solved!

Except that's the problem. This trend is TOO promising. If the UCPD Incident Reports were the only measure of Hyde Park violence, we might conclude that area violence has fallen by as much as 100%, or at least 50% if we still want to exclude 2013 as an anomaly. Any critical reader who looks at that graph is going to be extremely suspicious of UCPD data, and I am in full agreement with their skepticism. Recall that UCPD reports don't reflect all incidents; just those called in to the Department.

To get a badly needed second opinion, we need to move beyond the potentially biased UCPD statistics. We need to look at the total violent crime in the area and see if it actually dropped over time. A quick glance at the CPD crime numbers, a much more comprehensive source, show that Hyde Park is indeed a lot safer this year than in previous ones. The drop isn't as outrageous as in the UCPD would have us believe, but it is still clear.


Again, we see a pretty clean drop in violent crime starting in 2010, further confirming the relative safety of our neighborhood and its improving crime conditions. These CPD numbers might give further credence to the idea that  Hyde Park is less violent.

It is thus tempting to write off the 2013 anomaly, and all the other UCPD incident reports, as the natural consequence of declined violence. After all, we know that the UCPD doesn't have all crimes called in by local residents. In a year with less violence (like 2013), there would necessarily be fewer police calls. Similarly, there would be fewer criminals on the street. Given the drop in overall Hyde Park violence, we might expect to see a comparable drop in UCPD incident reporting.

But as you can guess just by looking at the numbers, the drop in UCPD reports is just too steep to be explained away. We need another way of looking at this problem to get some answers.

THE RATIO OF UCPD REPORTS TO TOTAL AREA CRIME
It is not enough to look at UCPD reports or CPD reports individually. To really figure out what is going on, we need to compare and overlap the two datasets. That is to say, we need to look at the ratio of UCPD reports to the total crime in the area. 

Why are we doing this? We want to look at UCPD reporting behavior over the last 5 years and see if it changed or remained consistent. If it was more or less constant, then 2013 might not be an anomaly; in a year with low violence, we would also expect to see fewer UCPD reports. But if UCPD reporting has changed somehow, then 2013 could not be explained away. 

So let's think about ratios. from January 1 through February 6 of 2013, for every 22 crimes reported to the CPD, there were 0 reported to the UCPD; a 0:22 ratio. We can simplify that ratio to 1/20 to be generous. Thus, if we were to look at January and February in other years, we would also expect to 1:20 ratio (or something similar) of UCPD to CPD incidents. In conducting that analysis, one of two things will happen:
  1. If we found that the ratios were about the same in each year (roughly 1:20), we might conclude that nothing suspicious is happening. In that case, 2013 might just be a really nonviolent year. 
  2. But if we found large differences between ratios (1:20 in 2013 but 1:3 in another year, for example), we will need another explanation as to why 2013 had so few reports.
The graph below illustrates the ratio of violent crimes reported to the UCPD to the total violent crimes in Hyde Park (taken from CPD data). In many respects, this graph just combines the previous two in this article. The pink-shaded part represents those crimes reported by the UCPD. Ratios of UCPD reports to total crime are given above each column. Total crime for each period is given to the right of  columns.

As can be seen from the ratios, our suspicions are confirmed: 2013 is definitely a huge statistical anomaly:

In 2009, of the 49 crimes that occurred in the Hyde Park area, the UCPD reported and responded to 24 of them: A 1:2 ratio to use our terms. That's actually quite commendable and suggests a high level of community involvement. In 2010, 2011, and 2012, that ratio plummeted. We see values at 1:5 and 1:4, showing that the UCPD started reporting less than 25% of all violent crimes in the area. Even so, however, the UCPD was still responding to a fair number of crimes and reporting them in its daily log.

And therein lies the problem: 2013 is still the lowest ratio by a huge margin. 1:4 and 1:5 may not be the best reporting rates, but they aren't nearly as bad as 0:20 (or 1:20, our generous estimate).

A statistical test confirms this anomaly. Running a chi-sqare test on the data, we find that 2013 had significantly fewer reports of UCPD violence (p < .01). How are we to interpret that statistical statement? If UCPD reporting ratios were unchanged in 2013, there would only be a 1% chance that we would have seen 0 crimes reported given that there were 22 total violent incidents in the month. Because that is just so improbable, we have mathematical reason to believe that something else is going on and that UCPD reporting behavior really did change.

This leaves us scratching our heads. What is going on with the UCPD reports? We all understand that the UCPD does not record crimes that are called directly to the CPD, but at least in previous years, we would expect to see the UCPD recording at least 20% of all the incidents in the area. Hyde Park violence did not drop so steeply as to expected 0 reports. So what caused the Department to record 0 in 2013?

FIVE POSSIBLE EXPLANATIONS DISPROVEN
Now that we have strong statistical reason to suspect that something else is going in with UCPD reports other than just a reduction in violent crime, we are pressed to come up with plausible explanations. 

Let's start with some of the more obvious explanations. At least, "obvious" in the sense that we are tempted to use them without thinking critically; as will be shown, none of these explanations merit any serious consideration.
  • The UCPD is deliberately removing violent crimes from the Incident Report to improve its numbers and the appearance of UChicago safety!!
    VERDICT: Highly unlikely
To even entertain this notion we need to be wearing some rather heavy tinfoil hats. Stat-juking is certainly common in police departments across the country, but it almost always takes the form of crime reclassifications, not outright omission. Now, there is a separate issue here about whether or not the UCPD is downgrading crimes; "Theft from Person" sounds suspiciously like "Robbery" to me, especially when there is physical contact involved. But in this period of January 1 to February 6 in 2013, there wasn't a single crime in the incident report that could have been violent before being reclassified. So at the very least, there was probably no reclassification going on. As to blatant lies, it would just be too risky for the UCPD to exclude violent crimes from its report, especially if the victim had an internet connection. In this information age, it would be very easy to expose such obvious malfeasance, the consequences of which would be serious for both the UCPD and its parent institution. For those reasons, this explanation seems exceedingly unlikely.
  • The UCPD is no longer responding to emergency calls for violent crime. Instead, the UCPD forwards them on to the CPD.
    VERDICT: Unlikely
Under this theory, the UCPD is actually still receiving violent crime calls even in 2013, but is then deciding not to deploy units to the scene. Instead, they forward the calls to the CPD to keep the crimes off their own ledger. This is a lower tier of malfeasance than the explanation above, but it is still a serious allegation. Thankfully, all evidence points away from this explanation. First of all, there are almost assuredly professional and legal regulations that require the UCPD to respond to violent crime in its jurisdiction. The UCPD would risk disbandment and devastating legal action if it deliberately violated that mandate. Second of all, this assumes a high level of institutional competency by both the UCPD and, especially, the CPD. The CPD barely has enough officers to respond to its own 911 calls in the worst Chicago neighborhoods. They definitely have neither the desire nor manpower to pick up the UCPD slack in one of the safest Chicago community areas. And finally, the UCPD loves going after bad guys. Whenever a violent incident is actually reported, there are at least 4-5 UCPD cars on the scene within a few minutes. Part of this is safety protocol, but part of it is also the excitement in going after the real criminals. For all these reasons, it is quite improbable that the UCPD is just passing the buck to the CPD.

The next two explanations have to deal with the specific details of crime, namely the location of crimes and the actual type of crimes. Unlike the previous theories, these are based on data analysis, not on wild speculation, which gives us some better tools for assessing their likelihood.
  • In 2013 there might have been comparatively fewer violent outdoors, street crimes than in previous years. Because the UCPD primarily responds to outdoor crime, this might account for the dropoff.
    VERDICT: Statistically improbable (p = .8)
When I first thought of this explanation, I was actually quite optimistic. In any given year, there is always some percentage of violent, non-domestic crime that occurs in outdoor area (fights and robberies in streets, alleys, parks, etc.). There is a reciprocal percentage that occurs indoors (fights and robberies in apartments, residences, stores, etc.). Given the public presence of the UCPD, its patrol routes, its blue light phones, and the unarmed security guards on campus, it might be more likely that the UCPD will respond and react to outdoor crime. According to this theory, when violence happens indoors, victims are more likely to call the CPD than the UCPD. As such, if 2013 had significant less street crime than in previous years, this might have accounted for the lower reporting rates.

Unfortunately, 2013 had more or less the same rates of outdoor/indoor violence as previous years. The difference in the distribution between crimes was completely insignificant at any statistical level (p = .8). That is to say, 2013 had the same ratio of outdoor/indoor violence as 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. Clearly if we want to explain the drop in reports for 2013, we need to look elsewhere.
  • In 2013, there might have been different types of violent crime (e.g. fewer robberies and more assaults) which accounted for the difference; perhaps the UCPD is only called in on certain crimes (robbery) and not others (assault).
    VERDICT: Statistically improbable (p = .5 and p = .25)
This was another theory that I was initially optimistic about. UCPD officers are probably more likely to be called in on a robbery than on a battery. Similarly, the UCPD might be more likely to drive by and witness a robbery than they are to witness a verbal assault. If 2013 had significantly fewer incidences of one type of crime (like robbery) and comparatively more of another (assault or battery), that difference might account for the decreased UCPD reporting. To check this hypothesis, I ran statistical tests on two slightly different datasets. For the first dataset, I only looked at the differences between the broadest crime classifications (Battery and Robbery). In the second dataset, I analyzed differences between more specific classifications (Aggravated Battery, Simple Battery, Armed Robbery, Strongarm Robbery, etc.).

Both tests showed that there were absolutely no statistical differences between crime in 2013 as compared to previous years. Just looking at the broader crime classifications, 2013 had a roughly identical distribution to all the other years in the sample; roughly 40% of all crimes were batteries, 30% were assaults, and 20% were robberies (with some left over to fill in the gaps). Thus, the difference was totally insignificant (p = .5).

The second test was just disappointing. Even breaking down the crime categories into smaller subcategories (e.g. Robbery into Armed/Unarmed Robbery), there were still no significant differences between the years (p = .25). If anything, of all the years in the sample, 2013 was one of the most average in terms of crime distribution, even if it had comparatively fewer overall violent incidents.
  • Following the UCMC Protest fiasco, the UCPD has been more cautious in answering violet crime calls and/or the community is less trusting of the UCPD and is choosing not to call on them.
    VERDICT: Unlikely
This was another great idea, one suggested by a friend of mine (herself a UChicago graduate and employee of the Hospital). After the highly publicized UCMC arrests on January 29, both the UChicago community and the general Hyde Park/Kenwood/Woodlawn communities were outraged at police treatment of protestors. I have commented on this in the past and I am decidedly less outraged than others, but I do understand how the wider community outcry might have affected UCPD response and reporting behavior. After all, in a community that does not trust the UCPD, victims of a crime will be unlikely to call the University for help. Similarly, UCPD officers might be under instructions to be extra cautious and sensitive in dealings with the community, which could mitigate their involvement in violent arrests.

Yet again, this theory doesn't hold up to scrutiny. The UCMC protests happened on January 29. As such, any consequences of the protests would not have taken into effect until at least the following day, January 30. Although this could have had an effect on the UCPD in the weeks following January 29, it certainly would not have retroactively affected UCPD reports for the entire month of January up until that date. A close look at the numbers confirms this problem; even before the January 29 UCMC protests, the UCPD was still not responding to crimes even though there were plenty of violent incidents in the area. From 2009-2012, just up until January 29, we would expect to see at least a half dozen violent reports. But in 2013, we still saw 0. So although the UCMC protests might have affected UCPD behavior after January 29, it did not decrease its engagement in the weeks before, weeks during which we still see a lack of violent reports.

There are a few other explanations that we could try and parse through, but I am confident that those will also fall to close analysis. Some people might blame the weather (a common crime culprit in Chicago). But if anything, the unseasonably warm January weather should have caused an increase in January crime, and thus an increase in UCPD violent crime responses. The temperatures certainly had that effect across the rest of the city, but it seems that Hyde Park was spared almost all of that violence.

What about the private security guards around campus? Surely their presence has reduced the incidence of violent crime in the area, maybe alleviating the need for the UCPD to respond to incidents. But again, this doesn't really explain the decline. The Allied Barton security personnel are stationed on corners around the University campus and immediate streets, not generally dispersed around the entirety of Hyde Park, south Kenwood, and north Woodlawn. That's a big problem, because the vast majority of Hyde Park violence has historically occurred in areas that are technically off campus; north of 55th Street and south of 61st Street. Because there are no security guards in those areas, they are certainly not leading to a decrease in crime.

All of that apparently leaves us quite stuck. But thankfully, there is one answer that we can turn to. Although it is not supported by any hard numbers or data, the evidence for this comes straight from the UCPD itself.

THE "ANSWER"? PERSONNEL AND RECORDS-MANAGEMENT CHANGES
As is often the case with crime-related phenomena, the explanations are often hidden in seemingly unrelated areas. In this case, the drop in UCPD reports was not cased by changes in violence, crime patterns, blatant malfeasance and misclassification, community mistrust, weather, or any number of other factors. But something did change at the UCPD in the past few months, and its timing and potential effect are just too convenient to ignore: staffing and systems.

Beginning in mid-December, the UCPD underwent a number of seemingly insignificant changes. Together, however, all of these changes could easily combine to explain the drop in 2013 violence reports.

First, during the week of December 3, the Department transitioned to a "new records management software" (2012 UCPD Operations Bulletin 39, 3). Although it is unclear exactly what this record management software was for, "all UCPD personnel [were] notified to attend" a training session on its use. Given that police agencies tend to really keep just two types of records (crimes/arrests and personnel/human resources data), this could definitely have had a huge effect on the way crime is reported at the Department.

Second, to start of the new year, the UCPD has kicked off "Initiative 1" of its new strategic plan, the goal of which is to take "steps to improve our efforts to attract talented staff by strategically targeting our recruitment efforts" (2012 UCPD Operations Bulletin 43, 1). As part of that plan, the UCPD has already inducted a new class of officers to its ranks, with 9 new officers added on December 28 alone (2012 Bulletin 43, 3). New officers always mean new opportunities and challenges for a police department, and the UCPD is no exception. On the one hand, these new young men and women will bring their training and expertise to the force, improving its ability to serve the community. But on the other hand, new officers lack experience in the field. They may also lack training in the systems of the Department (like record management processes). The UCPD undoubtedly understands these challenges and has taken steps to correct them. Those steps themselves, however, might lead to a drop in reported violence. New officers might be deliberately kept out of violent situations during their first months on the job. Older officers might be paired with them as mentors, reducing overall patrols and UCPD response capacity. Or on a more elementary level, new officers might be unaccustomed to entering data into a new system that no one knows how to use. Numbers can easily get lost in that turnover.

Finally, as a supplement to its new record management software, the UCPD hired a new Police Records Manager. Ms. Connie Tsao, a UChicago graduate majoring in Psychology, started her work at the UCPD in December 2012 as an intern before being hired full-time in early 2013 (2013 Operations Bulletin 5, 2). I do not want to question Ms. Tsao's competency or proficiency in the new system; if she was hired in the role she is likely qualified to succeed at it. But given the transitions that the UCPD is going through, it is very possible that some reports (i.e. RECORDS) got lost in the cracks. The UCPD only recently installed its software, so Ms. Taso likely has a lot on her hands in transitioning the Department to a new data system. All I will say is that new data management systems invariably cause the loss of some data, whether in nonprofits, businesses, government agencies, or police departments. The UCPD could be the victim of its own expansion.

All of these reasons combine to create a records-management environment that, although having great future potential, is currently flawed or even dysfunctional.
  1. New record management software in December 2012
    New software is hard to use for anyone! I remember the first time that a group of UChicago students got introduced to the SPSS statistical software; it was like trying to teach nursing home residents how to use iPhones. A comprehensive record management database software is undoubtedly more complicated with much more room for error. UCPD officers are still learning how to use it effectively, and everyone is on the same page together. Through using the new software, UCPD personnel could have incorrectly entered or digitally "lost" some of the violent incidents.
  2. New police officers on the job in January 2013
    The UCPD has hired new officers, and will continue to hire new officers, to keep on the cutting edge of law enforcement. New officers bring a lot of great talents to the department, but they lack experience and require additional training. Given the struggles that the UCPD might be undergoing with its software, this additional burden could make things even more difficult. Moreover, new officers might be deliberately kept out of violent situations and calls to minimize risk. This would also affect violent crime reporting rates.
  3. New records manager in December and January 2012-2013
    The new records manager likely has a lot to deal with in the transition from 2012 to 2013, not to mention the new software that the entire department is learning to use. Governments, universities, and even tech-savvy teenagers have trouble using new software, especially such complicated software as a new database management system. Given the potentially stressful transition between systems, it is possible that incidents were incorrectly entered, registered, or simply not being printed. The technical challenges alone would be large. 
Of course, all of this is purely speculative without actually asking the UCPD (a potential project for another day). Also, none of this is to insult the UCPD or its staff; I have tried to be extremely careful in my choice of language to avoid this.

That all said, these appear to me the likeliest explanations for the lack of violent crime reports in January-February 2013. There is also another explanation that I did not consider here: Crime is totally random and not subject to a lot of pretty patterns and explanations. Although there is truth to that, the precipitous drop in reports that we just saw defies the conventional randonmness and "noise" that we might expect from crime. That forces us to turn other explanations, the best of which is given here.

As 2013 progresses, I will continue to monitor the UCPD Incident Report for violent crimes, keeping in mind the parallel statistics given by the CPD. If things improve, then we might conclude that the UCPD has ironed out its technical and administrative struggles. If not, however, then we might have to dig deeper for additional explanations.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Techniques: "Honoring strikes" and Teaching Realistic Self-Defense

One of the hardest-to-teach, yet most important, concepts in self-defense is the notion of "honoring strikes". Simply put, the term means that we must pretend and act as if a partner's techniques were done at full power while they actually execute them at half strength. This lets our partner practice the move under controlled conditions, building muscle memory and experience, and lets the other partner leave the gym without ambulance assistance. But the problem is that the process is necessarily "acting" and "pretending". Students do not learn self-defense to act and pretend (hopefully not; they can do that at their computers and Nintendos). Moreover, I am not a theater or drama coach. As such, the responsibility of teaching "Honoring strikes" in a martial and realistic context rests almost fully on the instructor, and it is a difficult concept to explain and teach.

In UChicago Self-Defense Club the other night, I did a decidedly poor job of explaining "honoring strikes", in its definition, its practice, and its importance. This post is largely in response to my instruction shortcomings and will hopefully be helpful to other teachers who try and work through this challenging concept.

A SELF-DEFENSE PARADOX: TRAINING VIOLENCE NONVIOLENTLY?
Self-defense classes prepare you for the most dangerous, chaotic, and violent situations of your life. You will cause damage and take damage in a real encounter, and our job is to ready, even steel you for that moment. Some techniques we teach will cause damage that tries to put our attacker out of the fight (a groin strike, an elbow to the neck, a strike to the trachea). The difficulty is in practicing and replicating those destructive techniques in the gym.

1 hour into the 3 hour photoshoot?
Let's hope he's acting.

That is why self-defense is largely performance. At best, it is realistic acting, as when you emulate the physiological response to a partner's attack. But it can also take the form of outright lying, as when you pretend that your partner's strikes are hitting you in the neck and not in the shoulder. When trained properly, it builds targeting skills, sensitivity to distance and range, and muscle memory. When trained improperly, it teaches you sloppy targeting, ineffective muscle memory, and a false sense of power. So why do we "play" at self-defense instead of going all out and practicing the real thing, broken bones, blood, bruises, and all? Surely if we did that we would know our techniques are working. Why bother with the theater if we can just hit hard?

LAWS, ETHICS, AND PARTNER PRESERVATION
It's a ridiculous question: Of course we can't practice at that level of power! First of all, we live in a modern society of rights, laws, and logic. We can't legally or ethically strike and throw and jointlock at 100% power. Our partners are our friends and colleagues. Some of them are taking classes for the first time, and nothing says "Welcome to Self-Defense Club!" like a trip to the hospital. Neither instructors or students want to face civil suits or criminal charges following a particularly "HARDCORE" class with real clubs and knives. This forces us to keep power at a reasonable level.

"Just another day at self-defense club?"
Moreover, from a martially practical standpoint, training at such dangerous power levels would leave a gym empty and every student in casts and crutches for months. The key term, to quote my own teacher Prentiss Rhodes, is "partner preservation". We need to maximize our training efficacy while minimizing damage to our partner. That way, we can all come back and train tomorrow while still getting the most out of training today. A damaged partner is no longer a partner, either in the physical sense (he can't stand there and hold a pad for you) or the social sense (after you shatter his collarbone, he probably won't want to hang out with you any more). Thus, partner preservation further demands that we maintain reasonable power.

If we can't execute our strikes at a hospitalizing level of power, we need to tone things down a few orders of martial magnitude. This lets us return to training tomorrow, keeps our friends, saves us lawsuits and jail time, and allows our partner to practice the move in a consistent and safe environment. Of course, there is still the issue of acting, especially bad acting. Given that we must train at a low level of power, how are we to ensure we are doing so realistically?

ELICITING PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONSES
Most good self-defense techniques are trying to physical elicit a response from your target. This isn't a verbal response ("OW! That hurts!") or a contrived sparring response ("If I feint left he will execute a high block and try and side kick, at which point I will fire my right hook kick and win!"). We want to cause a physiological reaction. When you get hit in the groin, you stop thinking about the choke you are applying and double over. When you get elbowed in the neck, you crunch up into the strike and stop attacking for a second. When you get slammed in the trachea, you stop worrying about wrestling and start worrying about breathing. These are all examples of physiological responses that our body does just by virtue of being human. Self-defense exploits those physiological responses to create openings where we can escape and subdue our attacker. A 5'2", 120 pound female can't just wrestle out of the choke from a 6'2", 240 pound male. But she can slam an elbow into his neck, a tendon-tearing strike into his knee, or a palm into his nose to get him to loosen his grip. Because we target vulnerable areas, our techniques try to work irrespective (for the most part) of size and strength differences, and they work under high stress. The question remains, however, as to how we train these important strikes.

If we were to execute our techniques at full power, there would be no need to act-out the physiological response. We would just do it because we were hit hard. It doesn't require acting to double over after I get soccer-punted between the legs at full power. Nor do I need to pretend to be stunned and disoriented after I eat a full-power slicing elbow right into my carotid artery and nerve bundle, or when I take a knee to the face. But as we already discussed, there are many compelling reasons that prevent us from using full power. That means we can't actually force our partner to do the physiological response we want. So what is our 5'2", 120 lb student to do in class against her 6'2", 240 lb partner? They need to act it out.

REALISTIC ACTING AND TRAINING
Now that we realize we have no choice but to act it out, we enter into a separate problem entirely. Acting is necessarily pretending. How do we know that our strikes actually work? What if our acting is just obscuring the ineffectiveness of our techniques, luring us into a false sense of security and skill? This is dangerous, because it potentially grants an inflated confidence in moves that do not actually work in an encounter. That is the last thing I want to teach, so how do we get out of this trap?

If Matt Damon can do it, you can too.
The answer is that we still must act and pretend, but we must do so realistically. We most "honor strikes". If my partner fires 4 low-power knees into my groin and knee joint, I am going to "honor" his skill as a martial artists and know that he could be blasting those knees at full power. I know that if he did, my stance would crumple and I would double over in pain. Because neither of us actually want to break knees or other sensitive organs, I let my partner knee at a lower power, and I act as if he had kneed at full power. I give him the reaction that he would expect if he actually struck with his highest adrenalized strength. This is realistic, physiological acting.

INSTRUCTOR RESPONSIBILITY
There is absolutely no reason whatsoever that students should intuitively understand everything I said above. Remember, they came to learn how to survive brutal, violent encounters by using brutal, violent techniques. They expect realism from self-defense, not sparring, forms, and board breaking. Honoring strikes seems too much like play-sparring than real fighting, even if we know its importance.

The first warning sign should have been
the word "Cobra" in the gym title
As such, if they are not understanding that concept, it is not because they are ignorant, inexperienced, disrespectful, or above all, because they are bad students. As the saying goes, a student is only as "good" as his/her teacher. There are no bad students. Just bad teachers. If your students are not honoring strikes, it is because you have not taught them the "why" and the "how" of doing so. This was the precise failing that I encountered in my class: I personally neglected to teach the concept, so there was no reason for my students to respect it.

Instructors must build the case for honoring strikes in everyday training. We must explain why we can't go full-power (remember, "Welcome to Self-Defense Club! The ambulance is waiting outside!). We must emphasize the need for eliciting physiological responses. And then we must drive home the importance of physiologically realistic acting in place of 100% power attacks. All the while, we must remind students that they should not "give" their partners the technique. If your partner is tapping you in the stomach with his knee when he intends to fire at your groin, that is just an example of bad targeting. But if your partner has good targeting and range, it is his partner's job to pretend that the power is there too. And all of that falls to the instructor because it is our job to teach and our students job to learn what we teach.

For my own part, I will make sure to do a better job at explaining the concept of "honoring strikes" and its importance in training. Other instructors might find the advice in this post helpful for those very same reasons. As self-defense-focused martial artists, these are contradictions that we must grapple with every day. Only through a careful and critical treatment of the issue, both in teaching and in practice, will we train ourselves and our students to prevail while staying out of civil/criminal court, keeping students in class, and preserving our partners for another round on the mat.

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.

UCPD INCIDENT REPORT TRENDS
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).

CPD DATA COMPLICATES THE DECLINE
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
Assault
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
Assault
0 00
Robbery 1 22
Homicide 0 00
TOTALS 5 56

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".

JANUARY NOT SAFER, BUT STILL SAFE
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.

UCPD FINAL THOUGHTS
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.
  1. MAJOR UNIVERSITY FAILINGS
    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.

  2. PROFESSIONAL USE OF MARTIAL FORCE
    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.
     
  3. TRAUMA CENTER NOT THE ANSWER?
    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.