FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

More Cops Will Worsen, Not Help, Chicago’s Violence Problem

shutterstock_400550467

So the Chicago is going to hire yet more cops. Five hundred more. Yet more, you say? Yes – the city already almost leads the nation in its level of sworn officers, and has got precious little to show for it.

When politicians say we need more police, from Bill Clinton’s 1990s call for 100,000 more cops, to the 2012 Chicago mayoral election, a certain amount of fact-free electioneering is expected.

But when Crain’s Chicago Business’s Greg Hinz is joined by his editorial board in this fact-free nonsense, we’ve reached a new low in the civic discussion about how to save more lives in our city. Like the mass incarceration boom of the 1990s, the City is escalating a disastrous trend which our communities (and wallets) will spend many years trying to extricate ourselves from.

Before making their hire-more-cops pronouncements, did either Hinz or Crain’s editorial board bother looking up the numbers and crunching them to see where Chicago ranks on sworn officers per capita?

According to data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 2014 (the latest year available), the number of sworn cops per capita in Chicago is already almost the highest in the nation — #3 out of the 669 U.S. cities with 50,000 or more people. Since the UCR doesn’t crunch the numbers on a per capita basis, I’ve done so here.

As Crain’s correctly points out, while the absolute number of homicides in Chicago is shocking – more than LA & New York combined (with a quarter their combined population) – the city’s per capita homicide rate is still outpaced by cities such as Baltimore. But that presents another fact-based problem for Crain’s hire-more-cops prescription – Baltimore ranking #2 in the nation for cops per capita, also has the second highest murder rate in the U.S.

So arguably, to the extent that there is any correlation between the number of cops and the amount of violence, it’s that having lots of cops equals having more homicides. The reason is quite simple: the more you spend on cops, the less you have to spend on things that actually reduce social tensions and violence.

As Black Lives Matters activists have pointed out, spending on the city’s police already consumes 38-40% of our city’s operational budget – $4 million per day. That’s a lot of money that could be spent on real measures to prevent violence. And the American Friends Service Committee notes,

One day spent on policing in Chicago is the equivalent of what the city spends on:

* 5 months of Mental Health Services ($9.4 million per year)

* 18 months of Substance Abuse Treatment ($2.6 million per year)

* 32 months of Violence Prevention programs ($1.5 million per year)

In many respects Chicago’s violence problem is not all that different in scope from that of other U.S. cities. But when compared to the rest of the industrialized world, the U.S. violence rate is off the charts. As I have argued elsewhere, the #1 factor in promoting violence – far more than the presence or absence of guns and other factors – is inequality. The internationally-recognized best measure of inequality, the so-called Gini Index, shows over and over again that nations with high inequality rates have high violence rates. As with the world, so with our city.

Against this poor national baseline, Mayor Emanuel and Richard M. Daley have engaged in a series of disastrous policies that have exacerbated the growing inequality that Chicago shares with other U.S. cities:

* Destroying thousands of units of CHA and SRO housing has put upwards pressure on the rents for all working class people. It’s simple market economics – as units of affordable housing are destroyed, there are more people chasing fewer units of affordable housing, driving rents up. Rent subsidies fail to address the root of the problem because they don’t lead to construction of additional affordable housing units. They simply enrich landlords owning units that might not otherwise rent.

* Showering millions on gee whiz projects like Millennium Park, the lakefront bike bridge by Lake Point Towers, the Chicago river walk, the DePaul basketball arena, and several TIF-subsidized luxury high-rises. Meanwhile, many of the institutional anchors of working class neighborhoods, especially predominately black and brown ones, are wiped out or greatly diminished. Library hours are cut back, mental health clinics are closed, schools are closed, and their extracurricular programs, arts and athletic program are cutback or destroyed.

* While housing markets in black neighborhoods were hit hardest by predatory home loans, and the Great Recession wiped out the first decent home equity ever seen by most black Americans, Daley and Emanuel have piled on with a series of regressive taxes on water, garbage removal, parking, and a host of others, while scrupulously avoided taxes that primarily hit the rich, such as a financial transactions tax.

* The cutbacks in neighborhood institutions and programs have been laser-focused on our at-risk youth, particular in predominately poor black and brown neighborhoods, leaving them with historically low employment levels as they age into what should be the start of their prime years in the workforce. The result is youth without training or entry level jobs, and the underground economy as one of their few options for income.

Ironically, past police “successes” in combatting crime have also exacerbated our violence problem. “Tough on crime” measures gave police and prosecutors license to embark on a mass incarceration boom, disproportionately targeting black and brown youth for petty drug crimes (while white youth largely went free). With prisons bursting at the seams and long sentences expiring, people with “bad paper” exited Illinois’s prisons skill-less and in a virtually unemployable state even if they had skills. Their choices for survival were largely limited to the underground economy and recidivism.

Our city used to have two large, admittedly violent gang federations. But just as the break-up of the mob by the feds did a few decades ago, the CPD’s success in putting big gang leaders behind bars has simply spawned a swarm of much smaller gangs each fighting over tiny patches of territory a few blocks square, with much more violence as a result. Much smaller territories mean that public housing shutdowns and school closures are much likely to force youth across gang boundaries than in the days of the big gang federations, again with more violence as a result.

Flooding “hot spots” with cops or CAPS’ “positive loitering” simply moves the problem elsewhere or temporarily suppresses it, because the root of the violence problem – increasing inequality – remains unaddressed.

Publications like Crain’s, the Wall Street Journal, and the Tribune frequently publish articles decrying growing inequality in this country. But they’re nearly always found wanting when it comes to supporting specific measures to redress this imbalance by funding the rebuilding of our poorest neighborhoods, supporting a financial transactions tax, or opposing sweetheart TIF deals that shovel funds away from those who need it most.

Instead, they’ve the ignored facts and stupidly aped politicians’ demagogic appeals for more cops – something that won’t save our youth, and will instead drain funds from programs that help them and the rest of us.

As recent events in Milwaukee and Charlotte show, people’s patience with the non-solutions from our so-called civic leaders is at an end.

More articles by:

Andy Thayer has written previously about the then-impending Supreme Court decisions here and here. He is a co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network in Chicago and can be reached at LGBTliberation@aol.com

June 25, 2018
Daniel Falcone
A Reporter’s Reporter: a Conversation With Seymour Hersh
Gerald Sussman
America’s Cold War “Tugboat”
Jonathan Cook
The Defiance that Launched Gaza’s Flaming Kites Cannot be Extinguished
P. Sainath
A Long March of the Dispossessed to Delhi 
Sheldon Richman
What Does Trump Have Against Children?
Lance Olsen
Caught in a Trap of Our Own Making: Climate Change, Blame, and Denial
Seth Sandronsky
A Safe Black Space
Kary Love
Crying Children and Due Process of Law
Gary Leupp
Why It Just Makes Sense for the U.S. to Withdraw from the UNHRC
John Laforge
Kings Bay Plowshares Action Names the Trident with Blood
Mel Gurtov
After Singapore, Is Iran the Next US Target?
Kent D. Shifferd
A Different Perspective on Peace
Uri Avnery
Two Souls
Laura Flanders
National Suicide Point?
Ludwig Watzal
The Death of Felicia Langer
Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail