Chicago’s bad habit of being a negative outlier

Last week, I wrote about some of the trends in the CPD’s policing and the room for improvement there. The system isn’t perfect, not even close, and problems in any community will build up in situations like that. Chicago’s biggest crisis right now, the high murder rate, is the focus of this blog and a lot of what I’ve written, but it’s far from the only thing the city needs to look at going forward.

Obviously, having hundreds of citizens dying annually is not a good trend for any city, and Chicago is mired in that spiral of violence. While terrible, often random, and hard to solve, it is true that the majority of city violence occurs in a few specific neighborhoods. There are shootings everywhere, but the big numbers only stack up in certain places. Many of the shootings are in relatively known and contained spaces, which while bad for the people living there show that Chicago is not devolving into widespread chaos. There are issues the whole city is facing though, that point to significant problems and decline overall. First, back to policing.

While the CPD continues to carry out large-scale raids in an effort to stem gang activity and violence, the force is still making mistakes. This past week, police carried out an early-morning raid in the Near West Side that instead of producing crime-fighting results ended up leaving an innocent family “violated.” Obviously, mistakes are made in every field. But when the city’s police department has been under scrutiny and criticism for years for its careless and hurtful practices, terrorizing families is not the way to go.

Additionally, recent reporting by the Chicago Tribune found that many Chicago police officers found guilty of misconduct on the job never faced punishment due to mismanagement of paperwork. Even with the CPD’s “notoriously lax police oversight investigations,” simply losing track of such cases is a really bad look. The revelation that officers’ misdeeds once again went unpunished in Chicago led one associate criminal justice professor in New York to tell the Tribune: “That doesn’t even make sense. There’s no possible way that that could happen. It just doesn’t add up.” What’s up with police discipline? It’s been a problem for years, and once again the department managed to do something other cities’ couldn’t fathom.

Outside of policing and crime, I noticed another problem area for the city that might affect both its economics and the violence there. Recent US Census information shows that Chicagoland, among the 10 largest metropolitan areas in the country, was the only one to experience a population drop over the last two years. Chicago has steadily seen less and less growth since the 1990s, but hadn’t actually declined in the past several decades until now. And it seems that trend is continuing. Whether it’s people escaping violence, pollution, broken politics, bad schools, or something else, people want to get out. Illinois also saw a population drop, along with other Midwestern cities, so Chicago isn’t a geographic outlier. But across the country, it is, and as one of America’s major cities it’s not a good thing to be worst at everything. Chicago of course has loads of positives, but these problems continue to grow there. The future may be bright, given a certain optimistic set of circumstances, but population loss, violence, and corruption continue to be a bad recipe for success.

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