If Chicago were a war zone, it would be a deadlier one for Americans than Afghanistan.
In fact, according to the Department of Defense and FBI data, the number of Chicagoans murdered is two and a half times U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2001.
With NATO in the rear-view mirror, area law enforcement officials and politicians will turn their attention away from unruly protestors back to the city’s rising murder rate – up 54 percent from last year, according to police data.
Last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a new strategy to combat gang activity in crime hot spots to halt the killing. The strategy, called a “wraparound plan,” focuses on improving neighborhood services after police descend on an area to target and remove gangs.
“Once we make arrests, and we eliminate a narcotics organization, we are committed to holding onto that turf, to that territory, to squeeze out the drug market and the violence,” said Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy last week.
Homicides in Chicago have spiked this year, though overall crime is down. Chicago has had 169 murders in 2012, compared to 110 at the same date last year. Overall, the city’s crime rate is down 11 percent from last year.
According to FBI and Department of Defense data, 5,056 people have been murdered in Chicago since 2001, compared with 1,976 total U.S. deaths in Afghanistan since 2001. Chicago’s murder rate even outpaces total NATO coalition fatalities in Afghanistan since 2001 by a difference of more than 2,500 killed.
The proposed wraparound plan is part of McCarthy’s broader strategy to use data to concentrate police resources in troubled parts of the city, a strategy that reduced overall crime rates in New York by 80 percent in the 1990s.
One of the programs developed in New York in the 1990s was a data-mapping system used to identify crime hot-spots. McCarthy brought the system, called CompStat, to Chicago last year; it helps police identify neighborhoods in which crime is likely to occur by tracking crime report trends.
“Smart policing is about using resources and information to prevent violence,” said Andrew Papachristos, a Harvard sociologist who studies street gangs, violent crime and gun violence. “It’s not about going out and arresting people, it’s about cooling people down.”
According to the Chicago Crime Lab, a research program at the University of Chicago, New York’s turnaround in the 1990s was accomplished without mass incarcerations.
Incarceration rates actually decreased by 28 percent in New York, while the national incarceration rate increased by 65 percent during the same period.
Controversial strategies used in New York, such as the aggressive “stop and frisk” program, have not been adopted in Chicago. Explanations for the surge in Chicago murders range from the unseasonably warm winter to a police personnel shortage due to budget cuts. According to City Hall, the police department is short nearly 2,300 officers.
Papachristos, however, argues that despite Chicago’s need for more cops, a good policing strategy can still reduce crime.
“Smart policing is better than more policing,” he said. “It’s not about how many people you have on the street, but having the right people on the street – one good cop is better than three average cops.”