Crunching Lakeview's crime numbers as police start 'Entertainment Detail'

February 7, 2013

Updated 1:00 p.m.

The snow is not gone yet, but police in Lakeview are preparing to deal with the crime surrounding the area's nightlife.  

Where did the data come from?

One police commander has implemented an “Entertainment Detail” to patrol the neighborhood’s vibrant scene that includes bars, restaurants that cater to Cubs fans as well as the city’s gay and lesbian community. But how bad is crime in an area that has shootings and homicides in the single digits?

The numbers are interesting — and while not dealing with a large amount of violent crime — data suggest the neighborhood has become a magnet for theft and robberies.

Cmmdr. Elias Voulgaris  recently took charge of the 19th police district, which contains Lincoln Park, Lakeview and Uptown.

"It all comes down to quality of life issues. [People] have to respect the residents and cut down on public drinking, urination and damage to property."

Voulgaris was echoing a similar call from his boss Superintendent Garry McCarthy.  

Lakeview usually has single digit homicide numbers compared to that of some neighborhoods on the South and West Sides.

However, after 2010, there were stark increases in thefts and robberies in the neighborhood, which has residents, officials – and businesses – concerned about a neighborhood whose nightlife is a vital part of the city's economy and tourist industry.

Bennett Lawson is the chief of staff to Ald. Tom Tunney (44th). After a very public string of violent incidents, Tunney called for the formation of an “Entertainment Detail.”
 
The conversations and coverage during and after that time was very heated.
 
“We’ll have a more formal detail unit from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.,” Lawson said. “The “L” plays a big part of that.”
 
Lawson and Voulgaris have both mentioned the areas around the “L” stops being magnets for crime.
 
Also, they both acknowledged that residents have to take additional precautions to protect themselves and be aware of their surroundings.
 
“There are a lot that grew up in the burbs or in a large state... those that are transient, move to the city for their first job in their 20s, then move back out into the burbs in their 30s, but now we’re seeing more stay in the neighborhood, buying property, the schools are full, as opposed to those being bused into the district from years ago,” Lawson said.
 
“We’re educating people, telling them to take steps to protect themselves,” he said referring to residents pulling out their iPhones or listening to their headphones.
 
In 2012, Lakeview had 346 robberies. Of those 346, over 200 of those were strong-armed robberies, or simple muggings. About 49 were by gunpoint, with under a few dozen aggravated, or inflicting injury.  It essentially means that most of the robberies are people getting their phones, wallets, etc. stolen – without serious injury.
 
Voulgaris said the entertainment detail is still in it infancy, and will be in full swing by the spring and summer.
 
He stressed that they used existing police resources, and rescheduled officers based on the increases in crime on the weekends after the bars start to close.  He also said this won't affect normal beat patrols and the detail would work in addition to increased police presence for Cubs games and special events like Chicago's Gay Pride Parade.
 
We've parsed out the crime numbers and the data would suggest that there have been drops in some areas, like much of Chicago, but spikes in robberies and thefts, and the neighborhood has a larger amount of crime than its neighborhood to the north: Uptown.
 

Robberies for 2012

Batteries for 2012

Criminal damage

 

Editor’s note on comparing neighborhoods with a grain of salt

As Chicago’s homicides and shootings rack up, a lot of ire and media coverage centers on policing strategies. In Chicago, a city with storied racial, economic and education disparities, it’s difficult politically and logistically to address public safety issues — and effectively police them.
 
Are the West and South Sides experiencing more crime than parts of the North Side? Yes.
 
The conditions however, are more nuanced than a North Side vs. South Side discourse.  That dichotomy does exist. Understanding that divide should be the start of discourse, not the end of the discussion.
 
Such discussions are and should be necessary to an informed public. And it is part of the mission of WBEZ, which takes the form of series on race, recidivism and economic mobility.
 
It’s important to point out a lot about the nature of statistics. First, they’re absent demographic information. Some areas are more densely populated than others – and those population numbers don’t count visitors to an area.  An arrest number or rate cannot easily or accurately convey racial problems, gang activity – or economic and poverty data that are the social causes of crime.
 
A community area might have a larger area than another. Population is one of many factors in per capita crime. According to the 2010 census, Lakeview had 94,368 people, Austin had 98,514 and Uptown has 56,362.
 
So how do police divide limited resources to keep a city of nearly 3 million safe?
 
The police have specialized gang and narcotics units that can be deployed on top of regular patrols that are needed to maintain an overall coverage of a community. 
 
That’s effectively why the Chicago Police Department is divided by police districts and not wards or neighborhoods. Also, those districts are divided into smaller segments called beats which can be as large as a few blocks or several. You wouldn’t waste time having police patrol a non-residential industrial area with the same zeal as a dense tourist area. Both the districts and beats were recently redrawn by the city under Supt. Garry McCarthy, similar to a Congressional district re-map. The police say the changes allow them to redeploy forces as the conditions, population and crime in a neighborhood change.
 
The hyperbole surrounding some crime (flash mobs) can make perceptions more frightening than reality.  Does being in Lakeview mean you’re going to be robbed? No. Does being on the South Side mean you’re going to be shot? No.
 
The following comparisons offer a snapshot of violent crimes, and illustrate how one neighborhood can have higher rates of violence than another, even when population is taken into account.
 
In conversations with the commander of the 19th District and city officials, one message that the city and others want made clear is that addressing relatively non-violent crimes in wealthier neighborhoods does not necessarily translate to more or less resources being deployed to areas plagued by violent crime.
 
Whether or not that’s the case is hard to tell.
 
All these factors that should be taken into account as the city and its residents, like generations before them, debate self-governance and policing.
 

Homicides:

Shootings in 2012