Is a serial killer preying on women in Chicago? How many shell casings do Chicago cops pick up every year? Those answers and more can be found in obscure city budget filings

CHICAGO — Are missing women falling prey to a serial killer in Chicago? How many shell casings do Chicago police officers pick up in a year? If someone calls 311 but only speaks Yoruba, does the city have a translator to help them?

Those are just a few of the intriguing questions that Chicago aldermen have asked city department heads during annual budget hearings in recent years. And all the answers can be found in memos the department leaders sent back to the City Council after doing their research.

Many of the questions and answers are real yawners. Every once in a while, though, there are some gems. Here are a few of our favorites.

During the 2024 budget hearings, Ald. Brendan Reilly asked Chicago police brass to provide a “list of calls for service/incidents related to the migrant facility located at 162 E. Ohio (Inn of Chicago) since opening.”

CPD Supt. Larry Snelling reported back: There were 115 “calls for service/incidents” at the Inn of Chicago address between March 29 and September 29, he said.

The most common reason for police service? Parking violations. There were 17 of them. That was followed by 16 “disturbance” calls. There were nine batteries and 7 “premise checks,” which are essentially police officers visiting the place proactively. 

Among other interesting entries on Snelling’s list are two reports of “child abduction” and two calls about people who wanted to surrender firearms. CPD’s memo doesn’t say if the calls for service turned out to be legitimate.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) wanted to know what percentage of violent crimes were being cleared by CPD investigators. CPD’s response claimed a 49.8% clearance rate for murders, a 42.6% clearance rate for criminal sexual assault, a 24.3% clearance rate for robberies, and a 16.5% clearance rate for non-fatal shootings.

It’s important to note that “clearing” a case does not mean someone has been charged with the crime. Very often, it means CPD detectives believe they identified the perpetrator, but charges cannot be filed because prosecutors rejected the case, the suspect is dead, or some other circumstance. Those are called “exceptional clearances.”

Historically, CPD has run up its murder clearance rate by “exceptionally clearing” years-old cases.

Moving on: How much do you think the Chicago Fire Department has budgeted for smoke detectors in 2024? According to its written response to an aldermanic inquiry, the answer is $69,825.

Ald. Dowell is also the alderman who wanted to know if the city’s 311 system can handle Yoruba-speaking callers. She asked about French, too.

“The Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) writes to confirm language access in Yoruba and French is available via its 3-1-1 system provided 24 hours a day, 7 days a week all year under the Language Line translation services contract,” read OEMC’s reply.

Ald. Rossana Rodríguez (33rd) went a step further by asking OEMC to provide a tally of all non-English languages used by 911 callers this year and how many callers spoke each language.

Spanish is by far the most frequently used non-English language by 911 callers, which is unsurprising. There were 42,316 Spanish-language 911 calls translated this year as of August 31, according to OEMC. Next in line was Polish (1,052), Russian (665), Mandarin (538), Arabic (264), and Cantonese (235).

Since you’re probably curious, there were 18 Yoruba-speaking 911 callers. The least common languages translated for the 911 call center are Punjabi, Brazilian Portuguese, Moroccan Arabic, Igbo, Bulgarian, Assyrian, Hakha Chin, Czech, Telugu, Taiwanese, and Yiddish. They each had one call.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) wanted to know how many of the city’s surveillance cameras were broken. Answer: 449 cameras were offline “as of 5:02 p.m. CST on November 2, 2023,” OEMC advised.

Last year, Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) wanted to know “the number of guns recovered in schools throughout the City of Chicago.” CPD replied that 43 guns were recovered from schools between January 1 and October 23, 2022.

A couple of years ago, Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) asked CPD for the “number of shell casings recovered in 2020 and 2021 year to date.” On a piece of ammunition, a casing is a cylindrical piece that gets ejected from a semi-automatic firearm as the bullet flies out the barrel.

As of October 2021, Chicago police officers had picked up 69,290 shell casings that year, an increase from 59,183 in 2020, the department said. For 2021, that breaks down to 303 shell casings per square mile or about 4.74 per block.

But the most interesting nugget we found was a written response from the Chicago Police Department to Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) in November 2019.

Rumors have circulated for years about a serial killer murdering women who went missing in Chicago. Taylor asked CPD for the status of its investigations involving missing women who were found dead.

The department told her that CPD found 51 “women that were missing and/or found deceased/murdered” between 2001 and 2018. Of those, 39 were Black, 11 were White, and one was Hispanic.

They were “predominantly found in an abandoned building or outside,” CPD told Taylor.

Investigators recovered unknown male DNA profiles from 21 of the 51 women, the department continued. All 21 of those unknown male DNA profiles came from different men.

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About Tim Hecke 215 Articles
Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. His email address is tim@cwbchicago.com