Chicago — It’s been three months since Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) told his constituents that Chicago police had “a concrete and collaborative plan” to combat surging robbery reports in the area.
How are things going? Not so good. Robberies in La Spata’s ward are up 140% since his announcement.
“While I cannot share their specific strategies publicly – and consequently jeopardize their chance of success – please know that the 12th, 14th, and 25th districts have a concrete and collaborative plan for addressing this issue,” La Spata wrote in a July 21 newsletter after his ward experienced 57 robberies in three months.
Since then, the ward has seen another 137 robberies, according to the city’s data portal, a pace even worse than before he announced the “plan.”
And the three police districts he named have had a mind-jarring 950 robberies since La Spata claimed that CPD had “concrete” plans in place. That’s up from 452 robberies during the 90 days preceding his announcement.
La Spata’s ward twists and turns through neighborhoods plagued by a seemingly endless wave of robbery sprees for months on end. His website says that parts of Logan Square, West Town, Wicker Park, Bucktown, Humboldt Park, Ukrainian Village, and East Village are in the ward.
Community groups from those neighborhoods signed off on a letter this week that calls on city and county officials to take action to reverse the relentless violent crime problem.
How bad is the robbery problem? Here are the numbers from Chicago’s data portal, showing the number of robberies in the 90 days before “the plan” and the 90 days after “the plan” for this year, last year, and 2019, the year La Spata took office.
First Ward robbery reports
April 15 to July 15, 2023 (three months before the “plan”): 57
April 15 to July 15, 2022: 55
April 15 to July 15, 2019: 39
July 15 to October 15, 2023 (three months after the “plan”): 137
July 15 to October 15, 2022: 60
July 15 to October 15, 2019: 46
12th, 14th, and 25th District robbery reports
April 15 to July 15, 2023 (three months before the “plan”): 452
April 15 to July 15, 2022: 277
April 15 to July 15, 2019: 272
July 15 to October 15, 2023 (three months after the “plan”): 950
July 15 to October 15, 2022: 417
July 15 to October 15, 2019: 300
La Spata’s office did not respond to an email seeking input for this story.
In an email to La Spata’s office on Thursday, we also asked about a recent talking point he has raised in his newsletter and elsewhere about the city’s 2024 budget proposal:
“How come, in the City’s corporate fund, there are fewer full time staff for the Department of Housing (23) than there are police officers in the Mounted Unit for the Chicago Police Department (29)?”
We were curious because the city’s online employee roster shows that the Department of Housing currently has 92 salaried employees, not 23, and 34 of those employees make more than $100,000 annually.
The 2024 budget calls for Housing’s full-time headcount to stay in the low 90s.
So where is La Spata getting his number of 23 full-time employees in the Department of Housing?
It appears that he may be applying a little razzle-dazzle.
The Department of Housing’s budget receives money from sources other than the city’s corporate fund: Tax Increment Financing, grants, partnership funds, and additional federal money all flow into the department. It appears to be true that the city’s corporate fund will pay for 23 housing positions next year. But other sources of income will continue to pay another 70 or so employees.
It’s unclear why La Spata compared a fraction of the Department of Housing’s headcount to the CPD’s entire mounted unit.
If we hear back from him, we’ll be sure to let you know.
Chicago police efforts to tamp down on the robberies have been hampered by CPD’s strict vehicle pursuit policy. The department’s pursuit policy, enacted in 2020, is 11 pages long. It specifically prohibits Chicago officers from pursuing anyone for a traffic offense other than DUI. And it states explicitly that CPD will not discipline any member for ending a motor vehicle pursuit. If they continue a pursuit, though, they’ll be held responsible for anything that goes wrong.
Those policies have benefits and consequences.
Chicago has paid out tens of millions of dollars for lives lost and injuries caused by pursuits that ended with crashes. CPD supervisors have become so skittish about the possibility of something going wrong, that they’ve ordered cops to stop pursuing a car suspected of carrying wanted murderers.
In observance of the policy, cops downtown decided not to pursue a stolen BMW wanted for a series of armed robberies last May. Within an hour of that decision, men who emerged from the BMW shot and robbed Dakotah Earley in Lincoln Park.
So, the benefit is fewer people will be injured by speeding and crashing cars. As a result, the city will face fewer lawsuits.
The consequence is that robbery crews can rob scores of people across the city during nightly crime sprees, occasionally shooting victims, because the police aren’t apprehending them.
As a result, Chicago police have been relying on Illinois State Police troopers, whose pursuit policy is less restrictive than CPD’s, to handle pursuits. And ISP has been effective when their units are available.