City Data: 19th Police District Running Out Of Cops Faster Than Ever Before (“Backlogs” Up 400% In Recent Years)

The 19th District stretches Fullerton to Lawrence, the lake to the river.

Calls for police service in the 19th (Town Hall) Police District grew into “backlogs” 239 times last year, according to newly-released city data. By comparison, in the 56 months between January 2011 and August 2015, the district had just 167 backlogs. The district is the 10th largest in the city by square mileage and ranks #2 for population, according to the Chicago Office of the Inspector General.

Backlogs, also known as “Radio Assignments Pending” status or RAPs, are declared when no police units are available to handle incoming 911 calls for service. They are a good measure of whether a district has enough manpower to merely handle incoming requests for help. During RAPs, dispatchers assign the most pressing issue to the first unit that becomes available, the other calls wait their turn.

Since October 2011, the 19th District’s manpower has dropped about 20% from 468 cops to a current estimate of 372. One effect of the slash in officers is that more citizens have to wait for extended periods to get help.

Percentage of each month that the 19th District spent in RAP status (blue) compared to the percentage of crimes that ended with an arrest (red). | Data: Chicago OEMC, CWBChicago RAP tracking; and Chicago Data Portal

The City of Chicago refuses to release dates and times of RAPs to the public, citing safety concerns. But, since 2016, CWBChicago editors have used a variety of methods to estimate RAP occurrences and durations. Last year, our team independently documented 169 RAPs in the Town Hall district.

In January 2018, CWBChicago filed a Freedom of Information request for the number of RAPs declared in each police district citywide last year. According to the city, the 19th District experienced 239 RAPs — far more than the 169 cases that our editors pinpointed.

Last June, the 19th District was in RAP status 22% of the time, according to our editors’ estimates of backlog durations.

Alexis Stubbs | Facebook

In one high-profile case where RAP status affected emergency response last year, a top-priority domestic violence call sat unassigned for six minutes on June 11. While dispatchers waited for an officer to become available, the violence escalated, ending with the stabbing death of 12-year-old Alexis Stubbs.

Town Hall ranked 9th out of 22 districts for most RAPS last year.

As recently as 2015, Town Hall ranked toward the bottom of the RAP list, according to a 2015 report by the Chicago Sun-Times.

The paper’s report found that between January 2011 and August 2015, Town Hall recorded 234 backlogs. Compare that to 239 last year alone. Breaking it down, Town Hall averaged just over four RAPs per month during the Sun-Times study. Last year, the district averaged almost twenty.

By comparison, the Calumet District, which ranked #1 for RAPs in the Sun-Times story, had fallen to just 190 backlogs in 2017.  Calumet’s average RAPs per month fell from about 35 in the paper’s study to about 16 last year.

RAP incidents per district by month in 2017 | Data source: Chicago OEMC

Going hand-in-hand with the scarcity of police is a decline in the percentage of 19th District crimes that are resulting in arrests, according to city data. Since the spring of 2014, the rate of crimes with an arrest has fallen from the mid-20’s to the low teens, according to information from the City of Chicago Data Portal.

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After failing to fulfill a promise to maintain a manpower level of at least 376 cops in the 19th District, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is now saying that he will return the district to manpower levels seen in 2011. Doing that will require the addition of 98 officers to the district with more officers brought in to replace every current cop who retires, quits, or transfers. It’s a tall order for a mayor who has broken a much easier manpower promise.

This year, our editors identified 24 RAPs in the 19th District through March 22. That’s up exactly 100% compared to the same time last year.

This chart, provided by the city in response to a Freedom of Information request, shows the number of RAPs in each police district by month in 2017. | Chicago Office Of Emergency Management and Communications
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About CWBChicago 4274 Articles
CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is