Chicago Police Supt. David Brown marked his first anniversary on the job Thursday — just in time to face whipsawing year-over-year crime statistics that are returning to normal levels after being artificially suppressed by COVID lockdowns and closures in 2020.
Citywide crime reports are up 11% in recent weeks compared to the same days last year when COVID restrictions set in, city data shows. Some police districts are seeing crime increases of 40% or more.
Eleven days after Illinois’ stay-at-home order was announced March 20, 2020, CPD issued a glowing report on the department’s performance during the preceding month.
“36% decrease in murders and continued reductions in burglaries, thefts and motor vehicle thefts drive overall crime down for March,” the department’s press release began. It then boasted of “a 10% reduction in overall crime citywide for March compared to the same month” in 2019.
The department seemed to take full credit for the crime reduction in its statement, giving no indication that crime reports might have been down due to unprecedented restrictions on day-to-day life.
Then, at the end of April 2020, the department again boasted of “a 30% decline in overall crime citywide for April compared to the same month last year, with reductions in nearly every crime category.” Again, police brass never suggested that the performance was due to anything other than their crime-fighting strategies.
It remains to be seen how — or if — CPD will explain a sharp increase in crime that the city is seeing one year after COVID arrived.
Returning to normal
Between March 20 and April 13 this year, murders are up 26%, shooting cases are up 38%, criminal sexual assaults are up 47%, carjackings are up 52%, and motor vehicle theft is up 24% compared to the same days in 2020, city data shows.
Burglaries and thefts are down this year compared to 2020 as more people stay home during the day and fewer reports of retail theft and CTA crime are recorded.
CPD’s 1st (Central) District, which patrols areas like the Loop, South Loop, and Bronzeville, recorded 18% more crimes reports during the March 20 – April 13 period this year.
The 18th (Near North) District, covering River North, Streeterville, the Mag Mile, and part of Lincoln Park, is up 17%. The Lakeview-based Town Hall District is up 5%. The Rogers Park (24th) and Lincoln (20th) Districts are each up 12%, according to city data.
One of the most significant increases has been seen in the Shakespeare (14th) District, where overall crime reports are up 40% in recent weeks. Shakespeare officers patrol neighborhoods like Logan Square, West Town, and Wicker Park.
Of course, it’s only natural that crime stats will rise when compared to COVID-affected numbers. But the police department’s failure to acknowledge the pandemic’s effect during its public statements last year raises questions about how it will explain away the increases — or if it will offer any explanation at all.
And the data shows violent crime categories like murder, shootings, and carjackings are up in recent weeks even compared to the same time in pre-COVID 2019. That won’t be easy to explain away, either.