Crime and Punishment in Chicago

The devastating news about the murders of Academy-award-winning actress Jennifer Hudson's mother and brother only highlight another news story that broke yesterday.

From United Press International:

CHICAGO, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Four-hundred, twenty-six homicides have been reported in Chicago so far in 2008, more than in either New York or Los Angeles.

Chicago could be record more than 500 homicides by the end of the year, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

New York, with a population of almost 8.3 million compared to Chicago's 2.8 million, has reported 417 homicides. Los Angeles, with 3.8 million people, has had 302.

The number of homicides in Chicago peaked at around 700 in 1998 before a dramatic decline. In recent years, the number has gone up again in many major cities, and faster in Chicago than in New York.

Police Superintendent Jody Weis, testifying before the city council Friday, promised to change assignments and beats, moving police to areas where they are most needed.

"They haven't been moved around since 1978. That's three decades of people making empty promises," Weis said. "Nothing against my predecessors, but at some time, you've got to look at a problem and say, 'I know I can't make every one of the 50 aldermen happy, but we have to make sure we have the right resources in the right locations.'"

But some community leaders are not holding their breath.

From Chicago Sun-Times:

For 20 years, police superintendents have been promising to re-draw the boundaries of Chicago's 281 police beats to accommodate shifting crime patterns and population changes.

It never happened.

Instead of touching off a political war between black and Hispanic aldermen who believe their high-crime wards have been shortchanged and white aldermen who won’t tolerate a reduction in police services, Mayor Daley chose the path of least resistance. He formed a Targeted Response Unit that temporarily redeployed officers to crime “hot spots.”

That’s apparently why aldermen reacted to Weis’ promise by saying they’re tired of waiting. They argued that beat realignment is more important than ever, now that Daley is planning to hire just 200 officers during all of 2009.

Chicago's crime reductions problems are not unique. Race and class plays a large role in how politicians deal with urban problems. However, with the economy downturn and the rise in unemployment, budget reductions in community policing and other social services in urban areas such as after school programs and summer jobs will only make crime rates go up even further.



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