While Chicago’s overall crime rate is going down in both low- and high-crime areas, violence remains high, and more concentrated, in neighborhoods on the South and West sides of the city, according to a newly-released Yale University study.
Last year marked the lowest levels of violent crime in Chicago since 1972, and the lowest homicide rate since 1967, according to the study that tracked Chicago crime from 1965 to 2013.
Chicago, the data shows, ranks 19th in violent crime among 30 large cities as of 2012, with similar rates to Houston and Minneapolis. While researchers point out that Chicago is by no means the “murder capital or crime capital of the U.S.,” they find that some areas, like West Garfield Park, Englewood and Fuller Park, continue to suffer extremely high rates of violence.
Garfield Park and Englewood actually had more murders in the 2000s than in the 1970s, which contradicts the trend seen in most parts of the city.
For example, Englewood, which had an average homicide rate of almost 58 per 100,000 residents in 2000-2009, had a rate of 52 recorded during 1970-79.
Sharon Bryant, who left her home in West Garfield Park in the 1990s to move to a safer Near North Side neighborhood, said the shootings and violence are nothing new but “it’s something you never get used to.”
West Garfield’s homicide rate in the 2000s was 64 per 100,000 residents.
“It’s hard living in an area where you don’t want to get off of work or from school because you don’t want to be outside on the streets,” Bryant said.
While she still attends church in the area, Bryant maintains that she moved for her children’s benefit.
“I moved out for my boys,” she said. “I wanted to raise them in an area that was safe, and raise them so that they know they don’t have to destroy each other to get respect.”
The Yale study does not examine what may be causing the concentration of Chicago’s crime. It does note, however, that crime and gang violence continue to plague socially- and economically-disadvantaged parts of the city.
Residents of some of these high-crime areas said the data are not surprising, because part of the problem is a lack of job opportunities and family support.
“For the young men, the lack of jobs is real problem,” said Frederick Jones, a 70-plus year resident of West Garfield Park and former school principal.
“A lot of these kids may look to joining gangs, not because they are bad kids or anything, but because they don’t have a lot of support at home and their gang becomes a sort of family for them. It gives them support and a sense of purpose,” said Jones, who serves as business director at Saint Malachy’s Church.
In an effort to curb some of the violence, the Chicago Police Department is expected to spend $93 million this year on overtime for police officers, including those working off-duty in specific “impact zones” — neighborhoods that experience high crime.
And while the study did not examine what caused the lower overall crime rate, it suggests several possible contributing factors, including additional police efforts.
The demolition of high-rise public housing, the gentrification and development of particular neighborhoods, and shifting employment and job patterns are among the potential factor listed.