January 9, 2009

Despite rise in Chicago crime, area statistics show improvement

Crime is down in Hyde Park and Kenwood for the second year in a row even as it increases throughout Chicago, according to statistics gathered by the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD). The UCPD’s preliminary numbers indicate that there was a 22-percent decrease in violent crime from 2007, itself a low-crime year. The UCPD patrol an area from East 47th Street to East 61st Street and from South Cottage Grove Avenue to the lake.

These numbers are echoed in other reports, including those of the Chicago Police Department and the South East Chicago Commission (SECC), an organization dedicated to tracking crime in the area.

“We’ve seen a dramatic drop in the numbers, exceptionally low,” said Bob Richards of the SECC. The organization’s website indicates that by the end of 2007, total crime was down 31% from 2003.

Richards anticipates that the 2008 numbers will show a continuation of the trend.

“Obviously, we’re not getting the criminal activity out on the street, we’re not seeing the robberies, we’re not seeing the aggravated batteries,” he said.

Robert Mason, a UCPD spokesman, said that the UCPD played “a significant role” in the decrease in crime. Mason cited last year’s death of graduate student Amadou Cisse as a turning point for the University’s investment in security.

“This past year, the initiatives taken to protect students, faculty, and staff with SafeRide vans added to bus routes and with University police department, we’ve added eight new people…unarmed police officers that patrol the streets.”

Richards did not credit any one factor as being integral to the drop in crime. “The police have diligently been out there; the bad weather and all sorts of things [could also have affected crime],” he said.

Despite the improved statistics, crime is still an issue in the area. There have been several serious crimes in recent weeks, including a murder, a rape, and a string of robberies.

According to data on the City of Chicago website, crime in 2008 was down in the University’s district, District 21, by 2.5 percent over 2007, from the period of January to August.

Since crime in District 21 dropped less than three percent—despite having dropped over 20 percent in the area that the UCPD supervises—it would appear that crime in the rest of the district, Bronzeville, has increased. This is in line with the citywide trend, which has seen a 2.9 percent rise in crime in the same period of time.