A loud debate about crime statistics is taking place in Chicago as 2014 gets underway. The Police Department is claiming that it has helped lower crime, as statistics are down all across the board over last year. But others claim that the ultra cold and snowy Winter weather Chicago just experienced is what held crime down, not any particular efforts by the Chicago PD. More ominously, others say the police are actually cooking the stats.
Last week, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy claimed that his department was “making progress” on defeating crime and pointed to the lower rates as proof.
Not everyone is accepting McCarthy’s claims as given.
Many say the weather was the main factor, not the police. Their case is bolstered by the fact that during the first weekend of the year favored by moderate weather, violence in Chicago exploded with 35 shootings in only 36 hours.
But others see something more nefarious in the falling crime rates than just an oppressive Winter. A new investigative report by Chicago Magazine claims that Mayor Emanuel and Superintendent McCarthy are cooking the stats to make it appear that crime is falling when in fact it is not.
The magazine says that murders and violent crimes are being reported in ways that hide them from accumulated statistics.
In one case, for instance, a woman was murdered but because her corpse had so many different injuries the coroner couldn’t determine exactly which one killed her. But instead of classifying the death as a murder, the Chicago police classified the death as a “noncriminal death.” How could a clear murder be called a “noncriminal death”? According to police, it was because they coroner didn’t specify what injury killed her.
“With the stroke of a computer key, she was airbrushed out of Chicago’s homicide statistics,” Chicago Magazine notes.
In another case a man was found severely beaten. He died a few days after being taken to the hospital. Instead of classifying his death as a result of a criminal act, police classified the cause of his death as “diabetes.”
These weren’t the only cases the magazine found, either.
“We identified 10 people… who were beaten, burned, suffocated, or shot to death in 2013 and whose cases were reclassified as death investigations, downgraded to more minor crimes, or even closed as noncriminal incidents–all for illogical or, at best, unclear reasons,” the article says.
The authors also found the same “troubling practice” in the reporting of other crimes, “including serious felonies such as robberies, burglaries, and assaults, that were misclassified, downgraded to wrist-slap offenses, or made to vanish altogether.”
It was all a “betrayal of public trust,” the authors wrote.
Superintendent McCarthy called the article “patently false” and he said the reliance on anonymous sources discredits the findings. “I’m troubled by it because it hurts our credibility while we’re trying to build our credibility,” Chicago’s top cop said.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com