UCPD braces for expected spike in summer crime

By Laura Bishop

As the weather heats up, Hyde Park can expect more crime, according to statistics from past years that indicate an increase in the summer.

Following a nationwide trend, the greatest number of robberies in the city of Chicago occurs between July and October, with the highest number in July.

Bob Mason, executive director of the South East Chicago Commission, which collects data on crime in the Hyde Park–Kenwood area, said an increased level of outdoor activity accounts for much of the increase.

“Numbers are driven by robberies, street muggings, because there are more people out in the summer,” he said. “We see this pattern across the city and across the country.”

Executive Director of the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) Rudy Nimocks agreed with that reasoning. He said that people are around the neighborhood more frequently and for longer periods of time.

“There’s more street activity, more probable offenders staying out later at night,” Nimocks said.

According to Nimocks, most of the robberies that occur in the summer take place on the street, but homes and alleys are also not uncommon. Nimocks added that people need to take care to make sure their homes are secure.

“Be more cautious when it comes to leaving doors and windows open,” he said. “That provides additional opportunities for burglaries.”

After a spike in crime between May and July last year that left four people dead and another four injured from 11 Hyde Park shootings, the UCPD has added additional forces in an effort to continue to keep crime levels down this summer. Mason said that the U of C has made a strong effort to increase security.

“The policemen are out there,” he said. “The University has really extended its coverage and added people.”

The first quarter of this year, from January to March, marked a 29 percent drop in violence over the same period last year. Nimocks said he hopes the increased police coverage will be able to continue to keep the numbers in decline.

Nimocks added that the UCPD keeps a flexible patrol arrangement in order to respond as effectively as possible to any incidents that take place.

“We’re trying to pool our resources in such a way that will continue,” Nimocks said. “We modify our forces daily based on the activity we see.”

The distribution of UCPD coverage varies depending on the time of the year. Coverage on the campus is reduced considerably over the summer, with officers more spread throughout the neighborhood. UCPD patrols from 39th through 64th Streets and from Lake Shore Drive to Cottage Grove Avenue.

Despite the spike in violent crime in Hyde Park–Kenwood neighborhoods last summer, Chicago crime decreased from 1999 until 2004, the most recent year for which statistics are available from the Chicago Police Department.

Mason emphasized that this spike does not necessarily predict a trend for crime in the area.

“Each year will differ; we’ll see crime spikes,” Mason said. “In a neighborhood of this size, one or two individuals can cause a large spike in crime with their activity patterns.”

Overall, Mason said he is happy about the overall drop in crime but cannot predict if it will continue.

“There’s no telling why exactly it went down. Crime is a complex thing,” Mason said. “If you asked me to tell you what will happen this summer, I couldn’t for sure.”