Crime in 47th Ward Rises for Third Year in a Row
by Peter von Buol
Last year, for the third consecutive year, the reported incidents of crime throughout the 47th Ward increased significantly, according to the authors of an exclusive crime study compiled for the Schulter Foundation.
The study was written by the editors of popular CWBChicago.com blog after they had sifted through a half-decade of crime-data collected by the city of Chicago. The study authors concluded last year was the second-worst year in the past half-decade as 2,769 crimes were reported to have been committed in the ward. That is a significant increase from 2016, in which a total of 2,639 crimes had been reported. The worst year was 2013 as 3,129 crimes were reported to have been committed in the ward.
The authors noted a particularly disturbing development for the 47th Ward. Violent crime continues to increase. In 2017, there were 138 reported cases of violent crime, the highest total for the five-year period. Violent crimes include homicide, criminal sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated battery.
“Driving the violent crime up-trend is an increase in robberies, which has steadily risen each year from 52 in 2014 to 87 last year. The robbery surge is concentrated in a relatively small area in the ward bounded by Montrose, Lincoln and Western avenues.” wrote the study authors.
The section of the ward most-impacted by the increase in violent crime includes the neighborhood surrounding the Chicago Park District’s Welles Park and the Chicago Public Library’s Conrad Sulzer Regional Library. Both are among the 47th Ward’s most significant attractions.
Based on their analysis, the authors attribute the increase to the significant drop in the number of police street stops and the lack of enforcement of laws against the use of certain controlled-substances, including cannabis.
During a street stop, a police officer will stop an individual who is not under investigation to check their identification. Often, a police officer will also record an individual’s information. In the past, this enabled police officers to keep track of individuals they encountered on their beat.
Starting in August 2015, the use of street stops was greatly limited after the Chicago Police Department reached an agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union.
According to a 2016 written release from the ACLU, officials at the police department had agreed to curtail the use of street stops to “comply with the Fourth Amendment [of the US Constitution], which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, and the Illinois Civil Rights Act, which requires that government policies do not have a racially disparate impact.”
According to numerous sources, the decreased use of street stops by police officers has helped contribute to an increase of violent criminal activity. In the past, police officers had removed many illegal guns during street stops.
“The area’s bottom-line crime number is benefitting somewhat from a sharp reduction in police street stops and [also] the relaxed enforcement of cannabis laws. Narcotics cases in the ward have steadily fallen from 89 cases in 2013 to 31 [in 2017],” wrote the study authors.
Among the other contributing factors has been a decision by the Cook County States Attorney to not collect bond from many criminal suspects. In the past, these suspects would have had to post a monetary sum to obtain their release. If they did not appear before a judge, they faced the real possibility of losing their bail. Today, many criminal suspects are released after they promise to appear for their next court date. Upon release, a sizeable portion of these suspects resume their criminal activities.
In addition, fewer police officers now patrol the 47th Ward. Some have retired and many others have been assigned to patrol other parts of the city.
Also contributing to the higher violent crime report total was a dramatic increase (by 214 percent) in criminal sexual assault cases. In 2014, there were seven cases of reported criminal sexual assault. Last year, there were 22 reported cases. While this corresponds with a city-wide trend, the study-authors were not able to find an obvious reason.
Among property crimes, there was significant increase of motor vehicles reported to have been stolen. Last year, 128 motor vehicles were reported as stolen in the ward. Other types of theft also had a significant increase. Items were often stolen from porches, motor vehicles and grocery stores.
The authors did note a positive among last year’s crime statistics. While 2017 was the worst year in a decade for reported vehicular high-jackings in Chicago, there was only one reported incident of vehicular high-jacking in the 47th Ward.