If Trump Came To Chicago

If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible “carnage” going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds! 6:25 PM – 24 Jan 2017

Local reactions to Trump’s threat have ranged from outrage to fear of martial law to a shooting that wounded six at a memorial for another shooting victim.

I’m holding off on forming an opinion until we find out exactly what Trump thought he meant when he said that, or turns out to mean when he stops waiting for an unspecified amount of time for us to fix it (which we won’t, because if we could we would have already). However, if what he means by “the Feds” is a few dozen FBI homicide investigators to work through the backlog and, more importantly, a few billion dollars in witness protection money, that could be extremely helpful.

I suspect that at this point the actual cause of the increasing homicide rate is just the lack of prosecution of previous homicides. Meaning, the thing we think will happen if we don’t put murderers in jail is happening; they are continuing to murder people. When I went looking for statistics about this for Chicago, I discovered that Alex Kotlowicz has already written about this for the New Yorker, and discussed the problem of witnesses fearing retaliation too much to aid police in making arrests. This type of fear is of course only intensified by the ongoing lack of arrests, leading to the snowballing mayhem we are witnessing today.

Chicago’s homicide resolution rate (commonly meaning that a perpetrator was identified and charged, not necessarily convicted) in 2016 was only 26%. While reported clearance rates can be deceiving, the national average homicide clearance rate in 2013 was 64%. Depending on how the CPD is calculating its clearance rate these days, the real number might be even lower:

[Southeastern Louisiana University professor John] Boulahanis researched Chicago’s murder clearance data from the 1980s and 1990s and found that “exceptional clearances” accounted for as much as 20 percent of the cleared caseload in any given year. What stood out to him was that the majority of these cases were labeled “barred to prosecution,” meaning that police had identified their suspect, but prosecutors declined to authorize an arrest. Examining the individual cases revealed that cleared murders were disproportionately more likely to be barred to prosecution if they involved African-American victims or occurred in police districts on the crime-plagued South Side of the city. Closing cases this way not only boosts an agency’s clearance rate, but also means that prosecutors don’t handle as many of the tougher cases that can take a toll on their conviction rates.”

African-American communities on the South Side are, of course, precisely where most of the shootings are happening; see this helpful map from Hey Jackass.

At least one commenter at police blog Second City Cop, however, expects the plague of Feds to be mostly a bureaucrat-on-bureaucrat affair:

“Sending In The Feds,” means every swing-dick and hanging-tit at 121 N. LaSalle St. – Suite 500, will be assigned their own personal DOJ Agent to give a piggy-back ride to for the rest of their 
miserable lives.”

Of all possible outcomes, this is the one I’d put my money on, all things being equal.


5 thoughts on “If Trump Came To Chicago

  1. I initially commented elsewhere “My belief is that a breakdown in trust due to discriminatory policing is at least part of the problem: see https://www.justice.gov/…/justice-department-announces…
    If what Trump meant was support for the agreement in principle described therein I’d applaud it: but that seems like a highly unlikely reading of his tweet.”
    Our hostess pointed out quite correctly that discriminatory policing has been going on forever, so I replied:
    Another theory I have heard bruited is that the CPD has had success in breaking up the control of large gangs over large pieces of territory. Unfortunately they’ve been replaced by block-level gangs and as Hobbes might suggest, a duopoly on the use of force by sovereigns however bad can be preferable to a state of relative anarchy.
    I haven’t done the research either and it is not even theoretically clear to me that it would be possible to sensibly assign quantitative blame to different causes given all the potential interactions.
    But it isn’t necessarily true that the best way to make progress on a problem is to reverse the proximate cause of it, especially in highly path-dependent systems. The DOJ report suggested that putting more police on the street with current patterns of police behavior and socialization into police work might actually be counterproductive.
    (Path dependence means in general that there may be multiple equilibria, and which one we end up in may depend on the history of how we got there. For example,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Path_dependence gives as a possible example the dominance of VHS over Betamax, while acknowledging there are other possible explanations. Mark Kleiman applies this to crime control at http://www.samefacts.com/2009/08/everything-else/the-dynamics-of-deterrence-a-strategy-for-reducing-crime-and-punishment/ )


    • Interesting, some were more effective than I would have expected. My spidey sense tells me that any DOJ interventions under the Trump administration aren’t going to be focused on reducing civil rights violations against civilians, though. On the other hand the DOJ is staffed by non-political appointees, so presumably institutional culture would have some effect on its interventions no matter what Trump may think he’s doing.


  2. Pingback: Deterrence and Crime Prevention: Reconsidering the Prospect of Sanction | Damn'd Spot

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