Chicago — The commander of the Chicago police district that includes the Loop, Bronzeville, and adjacent lakefront areas went on WLS-AM this week to brag about enormous reductions in crime that have occurred since he became commander in June.
When talk show host Steve Cochran asked Cmdr. David Harris what he credited the incredible statistical improvement to, Harris replied, “Well, I’m gonna have to brag a little bit. One, my leadership.”
Among the leadership tools Harris said he employs are walking the hallways at the police station, “leading from the front” on the street, and awarding a giant wrestling belt to cops who do a good job.
Perhaps it’s appropriate that Harris would use a wrestling belt. Because, like wrestling, the crime statistics he listed on WLS were fake.
“Brag on your numbers a little bit,” Cochran’s cohost told Harris in the Monday morning interview, “because I know when we hear the numbers that come out, overall, you know, we hear these stats all the time: crime’s up, crime’s up, crime’s up. But, technically, in the first district, they’re down since you took over in June.”
“Absolutely,” Harris replied. “Yeah. I took over in June, and since then, overall crime is down 44%.”
“That’s huge,” Cochran replied.
“Wow,” echoed his cohost.
Down 44%. Is that right, commander? We’d love to know how he achieved a 44% reduction in overall crime when every single month this year has seen significantly more crime reports filed in the district than last year. Take a look:
From June 1 through November 21, crime reports in Harris’ district are not down 44%. They’re up 30%.
Harris tossed out some specifics: “Robbery is down 55%. Our aggravated batteries are down 41%. Burglaries are down 42%.”
Every one of those claims is categorically and provably false.
Robberies since June are not down 55%. They’re up 2.3% compared to the same time last year. Aggravated batteries are not down 41%. They’re up 2.7%. And burglaries are not down 42%. They’re up 1.5%.
Now, reports in those categories have dropped below last year during some recent months, but Harris’ claims are pure fantasy. Here’s what the numbers look like in visual form:
Is there less crime in November than June? Well, yeah. That’s the way it works in Chicago. Higher crime in the spring and summer, lower in the winter. But that’s not due to exceptional police leadership or wrestling belt awards. It’s due to the weather and the natural ebb and flow of activity.
CWBChicago was founded in 2013 by a group of people who became frustrated by false information the Chicago Police Department consistently provided in community meetings and the media. Since then, we have regularly called out CPD leaders who mislead the public, and we will never stop doing that.
What causes a 26-year police veteran like Harris to make preposterous claims on the radio? Why would he not simply go on and tell the truth?
Honesty and transparency should be cornerstones of the police department. And, as we’ve said many times, if CPD leadership is willing to mislead the public about simple statistics, why would they not mislead the public about more important things — like when a police officer shoots someone?
Why, instead of “bragging” about a non-existent 44% reduction in crime, didn’t he say, “You know, we’ve seen some increases that I’m not happy about, but I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to build on a couple of recent improvements.”
Instead of claiming outrageous improvements in robberies, burglaries, and aggravated batteries, why not say, “I’m pleased to report that the past three months have dipped below last year’s levels. That may not sound like a lot, and it’s not. We have a long way to go, but I’m committed to seeing that trend continue and I’ll be happy to come back anytime to talk about where we stand.”
In our book, that’s what real leadership would do.
Before publishing this article, we asked the Chicago Police Department to help us understand what Harris was talking about on WLS. The department provided no explanation and no statistics to support Harris’ claims. A CPD spokesperson suggested we check the city’s data portal. We did. And you saw the results.
We also pulled the Central District’s internal crime stats report, dated the same day Harris went on the radio. Here’s what that looks like (Viewing tip: Red is bad.)…