On November 19, I attended a screening of Bloomberg News’s documentary, Hank: Five Years from the Brink, about former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s view of the September 2008 financial crisis. During the promised panel discussion prior to showing the film, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s former White House Chief of Staff, took the center seat facing the audience, while Hank Paulson, the evening’s honoree, and the Bloomberg host sat off to the side in a three-chair semicircle.
Mayor Emanuel told the audience that Chicago crime was down. I don’t know anyone who believes it
Mayor’s “Lower Crime” Statistics
On December 20, an off-duty officer was nearly the victim of an armed robbery until he apprehended the alleged assailant:
“A man was taken into custody after trying to rob an off-duty Chicago police officer at knifepoint early this morning, authorities said.”
This happened in one of the more expensive neighborhoods in Chicago. The off–duty officer called for assistance, and he and the responding officers took the knife-wielder into custody without anyone being harmed.
Also on December 20, off-duty Cook County Sheriff’s Investigator Cuauhtemoc Estrada, a former marine, was shot and killed after he tried to intervene in an armed robbery:
“Estrada…was fatally shot Friday night protecting his daughter and her boyfriend from armed robbers outside a holiday party he was hosting at a Bellwood Veterans of Foreign Wars hall.”
The criminals in both of these incidents were apparently not seeking out off-duty police officers, they were just engaging in Chicago’s routine pervasive crime.
Chicago’s Crime Statistics
The population of Chicago is around 2.7 million. In 2011, murders were 431 or around 0.158 / 1,000. Robberies were 13,975 or 5.14/1,000. Out of 1,000 people, roughly 5.28 will be the victim of a robbery and/or murder and 994.7 will not. Let’s round it, because we’re talking about individuals. So to overstate it slightly, 6/1,000 will be victims of robbery and/or murder. (Rounding up biases this analysis a little in the mayor’s favor, since I’m explaining how unlikely an event the off-duty police officer’s incidents should be. But the mayor’s stats are so suspect that it doesn’t matter.)
Full time law enforcement staff was 12,799 of which 12,092 were officers, or 4.47 officers / 1,000 residents. I do not know what percent are off duty at any time, but obviously the number of off-duty officers is lower. Let’s put the stats in Rahm’s favor and make it more likely for an off-duty officer to be a victim, say 3 officers/1,000 residents are off-duty.
You might expect that in any given year, if three fourths of the officers are off-duty, i.e., 12,092 * .75 = 9,069 are off duty, and 6/1000 are likely to be victims of a crime, then you could expect to see 54 off-duty officers as victims of armed robberies or murders in a given year. Now what is the probability of this happening to two off-duty officers on the same day? There’s actually a high probability, around 98% that it could happen to two off-duty officers on the same day. So it is possible that I just happened upon that occurrence by chance. There isn’t enough evidence to suspect all of the major’s statistics. But there is reason to question them. If I notice this happening more frequently, I’ll revisit this topic. Note that I wasn’t looking at this over a period of a year. I was doing a year-end wrap up, because of the Mayor’s comments on Nov 19, and then only after returning from a business trip on Dec. 10. My time frame for the snapshot isn’t one year but a window of less than three weeks with around a 15% chance of two victims on the same day. (Due to the short timeframe for observations, this isn’t the same as “the birthday” problem.)
These aren’t the only recent crimes involving an off-duty officer as a potential victim. I haven’t been keeping track, but I recall an incident in September of this year. Off-duty officer Dorothy Campbell shot and wounded an intruder and would-be robber:
The officer woke up this morning to a door bell…then heard noises coming from a downstairs bedroom. Police say the officer grabbed her gun and headed downstairs to find a [17-year old male] rifling through her stuff.
“He turns around, lunges at her. At that point, she fires her weapon, fearing for her life,” Camden says.
Neighbors say this is not the first time the officer’s home was broken into.
The incidents strongly suggest Chicago’s crime statistics aren’t anywhere close to reality. Update 2: Actually the scenarios above are plausible given our acceptance of this as being “normal’ for Chicago and crime rates being “lower.”
December 26: “A fight involving eight people was broken up Thursday [December 26] at Orland Square Mall with the help of off-duty law enforcement officers who were out shopping.” (“Mall Brawl Quelled with Help from Off-Duty Cops,” by Ben Feldheim, Tinley Park Patch).
December 27: Second City Cop has a post, “Winter Wilding Season,” of apparently an off-duty officer’s eye-witness account of a thug wilding involving hundreds at North Riverside Mall on Friday, December 27.
Update 2: Beating an Almost-Mayor Into a Statistic
The Chicago area isn’t alone in having problems at the mall. The Democratic runner up in the Minneapolis mayoral race might have something to add about crime statistics, he became one when he was brutally beaten Thursday evening:
Mark Andrew, 63, was at a Starbucks inside the mall at around 7 p.m. Thursday when a man grabbed his phone off his table and ran off.
When Andrew went after him, he was tackled by two teenage girls – aged 18 and 17 — one of which began beating him with a billy club. During the attack, they told Andrew, “We’re going to kill you,” police say.
MSN’s 15 Best Cities: None Is In the United States
What we tolerate as “normal” for U.S. cities may be the reason that no U.S. city made MSN’s list of the 15 best cities in the world. One of my well-traveled friends read the list and remarked: “To me they were almost unbelievable / fairytale because as an American, I’d assumed cities are full of [severe social problems.]”
Happy New Year! Chicago Hopes It Is Better Than 2013
Monica Davey at The New York Times has January 1 report:
As of Dec. 30, [Chicago] had reported 413 homicides, about a 17 percent drop from the year before and the fewest to date since 1965.
Sounds great, until you take a closer look.
In 2013 the number of Chicago homicides was reported as 413. According to the report: “The official murder tally does not include certain types of deaths, such as those deemed self-defense.” 2012 saw a big uptick in homicides to 516 versus 435 in 2011 and 436 in 2010. It’s good that the number of murders is more in line with 2010 and 2011.
But if you want to compare Chicago homicides in 2013 with 1965, you need to look at the murder rate. That’s because Chicago has lost population. In 2013, Chicago’s population is the lowest it has been since 1920.
Homicide Rate Is Up (Not Down) More than 30% versus 1965.
In 1965 there were 395 homicides and the population of Chicago was between 3,550,404 (1960) and 3,366,957 (1970). In 2013 the population of Chicago was estimated at 2,715,000 and the number of homicides was 413.
The homicide rate (per thousand residents) for Chicago is up more than 30% (30%-36%) from 1965.
How Are Mob Action Assaults Counted?
Corpses and gunshots aren’t the only way we measure crime.
How do we measure mob action when hundreds flee?
How does Chicago measure crime when flash mobs rob stores?
A dominant topic at Thanksgiving and Christmas parties was that the streets of Chicago are more dangerous and less civil than at any time in the last ten years, and this is supposed to be progress.