Chicago Police Supt. David Brown called a press conference Thursday evening to talk about the city’s carjacking problem. He opened his remarks with this claim:
“In 2020, there were 1,417 incidents of vehicular hijackings. Chicago police arrested 1,127 — that’s 1,127 — offenders for these crimes,” Brown said.
That’s false. Completely, off-the-charts not true.
Last year, Chicago police arrested 178 people for vehicular hijackings. Who told us that? The Chicago Police Department.
The other 949 arrests that Brown lumped in with those were for criminal trespass to vehicles, a misdemeanor that simply means someone was inside a car without permission.
Many of those 949 people were passengers in cars that someone else stole — and they may not have even known the car was stolen. Many others were charged with criminal trespass to a vehicle for snooping around inside someone’s car looking for spare change. There are myriad ways to be charged with a misdemeanor criminal trespass to a vehicle. But putting a gun in someone’s face and taking their car is not one of those ways.
CPD often seems to have an institutional inability to tell the truth with numbers. No matter who the superintendent is, the department churns out statistics that twist numbers within an inch of their lives.
No one in their right mind would believe that Chicago police arrested 1,127 people in a year when there were 1,417 carjackings — particularly when the police department itself has said that COVID masks make it harder to identify carjackers.
But the press is running with Brown’s claim, so the department is succeeding in making some people think that over a thousand people were arrested for carjackings last year when not even 200 were.
“In 2020, Brown said there were 1,417 carjackings, and police arrested 1,127 people in carjacking-related crimes,” says the Sun-Times.
The Tribune: “In 2020, there were 1,417 incidents of carjackings, and police arrested 1,127 suspects, Brown said.”
Brown’s claim did not pass the sniff test, so we asked CPD to clarify the 1,127 arrest claim. And we got the truth. We also asked the department how many of last year’s 1,417 carjackings have been “cleared” by detectives, meaning the crimes are considered solved.
We were told that number, which would give a truer picture of CPD’s success rate, is not available.
Brown made another claim during Thursday’s press conference. He said there have been 144 carjackings already in 2021. That’s true.
He also said police had arrested 104 people in connection with those crimes. That is not true.
Then, there’s this
During Thursday’s press conference, Brown said the department would assign some of its citywide resources to each of the city’s five detective areas to try to catch carjackers.
Those resources arrived in the areas earlier this week. According to an officer, Area Three, which includes everything from Rogers Park to Bronzeville and the United Center to Streeterville, received a total of eight officers and one sergeant to combat carjackings this week.
Then, there’s this interesting nugget: Chicagoans will never know how many carjackings were attempted but failed in 2020 (or in any year). Why? Because the police department does not have a crime category for attempted vehicular hijacking.
If you try to rob someone of their wallet and fail, it’s recorded as an attempted robbery. If you try to burglarize a home and fail, it’s recorded as an attempted burglary. But if you try to carjack someone and fail, it gets classified as an attempted robbery.
“We’ll never know how many carjackings fell through,” a cop told us this week.