Introduction

In early January 2017, President Trump tweeted “If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ going on… I will send in the Feds!” (A.O.L. Staff), highlighting his fixation on the crime within the city of Chicago, particularly the recent increase in murders. However, this view of Chicago experiencing ‘carnage’ from murders is a simplification of the crime dynamics within the city. Although the murder rate in Chicago has increased since 2015 (Chicago Tribune Editorial Board) and the city has the highest number of killings of any city in the US (Berman; Chicago Tribune Editorial Board), Chicago is not in fact the most dangerous city in the United States (Berman), nor is this murder rate unprecedented (Arthur).

This vision of Chicago simplifies the crime within the city in two key ways. First, it assumes that murder is the largest crime within the city, ignoring all other forms of crime that may be occurring. Second, it assumes that the city as a whole is experiencing crime, ignoring the fact that crimes do not occur equally across space. In truth, certain areas can experience more crime than others. Furthermore, type of crime can also be specific to the socioeconomic realities of a place. Economic factors, such as per capita income, can influence crime rates and types of crime in cities. Given that Chicago is a large city with a variety of neighborhoods, it is likely that different areas of the city are experiencing different forms of crime. For this article, we examined the types of crime, the locations of crime, and the relationship between crime rates and various economic indicators (all using data from the year 2012) to identify the relationship between economic factors and crime patterns within Chicago.

I. Visualizing Crime in Chicago

The city of Chicago is comprised of 77 community areas, which can be analyzed to give information about data such as census information and crime. An analysis of crime within the 77 comunity areas of Chicago revealed that Fuller Park, West Garfield Park, and East Garfield Park recorded the highest crime rates in 2012. When normalized for population, 425 crimes occurred per 1,000 persons in the Fuller Park community area. 371 and 300 crimes per 1,000 persons occurred in West Garfield and East Garfield Parks. On average in 2012, 134 crimes occured per community area. As shown in the histogram below, the community area crime rate distribution is skewed to the right. Therefore, several community areas with high crime rates do not fully represent the Chicago area.

On the map below, the 5 community areas with the highest crime rates are highlighted. Note how these community areas are clustered near each other. High crime rates in Chicago, therefore, do not occur randomly or evenly across space. Rather, certain areas of Chicago experience more crime than others.