CHICAGO — A quick glance at the press release from the Chicago Police Department might have you believe police officers are regaining control of dangerous streets.
“Chicago saw a 27% drop in year-to-date in criminal activity compared to the same three-month period in 2020,” the department declared in its monthly crime report.
But that’s not the entire story.
While Chicago police claim credit for a reduction in the category of “overall violent crime” (including homicides, aggravated battery and assault, burglary, robbery, theft and motor vehicle theft), the department acknowledges it’s a dramatic decrease in thefts – not murders and shootings – driving that statistic.
In the month of March, the number of shooting victims increased 70% compared to last year (175 vs 298) and the number of murders increased 50% (28 vs 42).
While it’s true fear over the rapidly spreading coronavirus and stay-at-home orders that first went into effect March 21, 2020 may have kept more people at home and off the street in March of last year, the rise in the number of shooting victims is even more profound when you compare March 2019 to March 2021 (165 vs 298). Although the number of murders decreased slightly.
Year-to-date data also shows an alarming increase in the most life-threatening categories of crime. The number of shooting victims rose by 43% in the first three months of this year compared to last year. Year-to-date murders are up 34%. That translates to 213 more people shot and 33 more people killed so far this year.
CPD is claiming progress in its efforts to combat carjackings. While the year-to-date number remains higher than last year, the number of carjackings in just the month of March is down 33%. The department added 40 officers to its vehicular hijacking taskforce in late January. Federal prosecutors have also taken over some cases seeking tougher charges.
The job of a police officer is also more dangerous. The department reports Chicago cops have been shot at 21 times this year compared to nine officers being shot at during the same time period last year. Four officers have been hit by gunfire this year, all are expected to physically recover from their injuries.