In Chicago We All Experience Violent Crime
On March 10th, The Chicago Sun-Times published Chicagoans should start talking about why they’re so afraid in the first place written by Alden Loury. The premise of Loury’s piece was that white voters can’t actually be afraid of violent crime because, as Loury argues, the data shows they don’t really experience violent crime.
I refute Loury’s argument and below I detail why.
To begin with, I want to note that I am a sworn Police Officer and do not have the luxury of publicly endorsing a candidate for political office — and rightfully so. I’ve subscribed to this proposition for years and believe that those who hold public responsibilities should too. I take no political candidate position but my own. If there is any overlap in a candidate’s political posture in my argument that is happenstance. This is an important distinction as Loury’s piece mentions two candidates in a run-off for the Chicago mayoral election.
Moreover, the pervasiveness of violent crime in Chicago has captured my attention with an unbreakable stronghold for almost a decade. Consequently, I have committed myself to its extinction — which I do believe is fast approaching. However, a true assessment of the issues — which there are many — is the correct starting point. Our baseline doesn’t have to be comprehensive but it should be inclusive.
For example, Loury explains that “there hasn’t been a murder in the majority-white Forest Glen, Jefferson Park” Chicago neighborhoods since 2019. Nonetheless, in January of 2023 I received a text message from a white friend that lives in Jefferson Park that reads:
“What the heck happened on the highway earlier today? That is the scariest experience I’ve ever had in my entire life. Who was shooting and why and how am I alive? People slammed on their breaks and started reversing. We were just trying to duck.”
Is it fair to say that my friend experienced a violent crime? What’s more is that I imagine she told many of her colleagues about this experience during her night shift at a children hospital where she works as a nurse. Is it possible that they too now fear that the same thing might happen to them?
More interestingly, Loury goes on to say, “they’re afraid of the communities where violent crime most often occurs — and the people who live there — Black and Brown people.” In reading that statement, my immediate attention goes to the people I know that live in the loop and the surrounding areas — who drive past the highly sought after schools: the Payton’s and Whitney Youngs of Chicago to teach in schools in Austin, Englewood, Lawndale, and others. These are passionate white folks whose characters I know to be uncompromised and committed to helping solve some of our most challenging issues. How can we discount their experiences? Their conversations with their students, their observations in their classrooms, among others data points shouldn’t be devalued because of their skin color or because of which neighborhood they live in.
And finally, Loury compares the fears he writes about in the present day to those white folks who fled Chicago en masse to the suburbs over the last several decades — those who indisputably began to pack their bags before their homes were even sold. Nevertheless, I am uncertain about why Loury made this comparison, because in August of 2021 Loury presented data that explained, “white residents are Chicago’s largest group, but their numbers grew by just 1% over the past decade from roughly 855,000 in 2010 to about 864,000 in 2020” in a piece he co-wrote for WBEZ. While the increase was marginal their numbers didn’t decrease — indicating no such exodus from white folks is taking place in Chicago.
In some ways I am not entirely conflicted by Loury’s argument. I do agree that nonwhites are more likely to become homicide victims than their white neighbors. However, I don’t subscribe to the belief that you must be shot to death yourself to then be afraid of violent crime. In other aspects, I acknowledge Loury’s point that white folks are afraid. But so are many Black folks, which is one of the main reasons that many have moved out of Chicago to the suburbs, Indiana, and Southern cities across the United States. “Chicago’s Black population dropped to 787,551 in 2020, its lowest total since the mid-1950s”, according to an analysis by the Chicago Tribune.
Perception is reality. If your car is stolen and you learn that your car was used in a recent shooting or carjacking you begin to see the world a bit differently than you did before.
To effectively combat violent crime our collective efforts must be inclusive of all stakeholders: every citizen of moral courage. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s didn’t focus on Southern Blacks alone, but Native Americans on The Reserves, white people in the Appalachians, Mexican Americans out West, and Black folks in northern neighborhoods such as North Lawndale alike. Why? Because a rising tide lifts all boats and we should never, under any circumstance, discount someone else’s experience — especially our neighbors.
Chicagoans are afraid because violence in our city is real. Children dying by way of rifle rounds is real. Grandmothers being gun-down in their living rooms and on our streets is real. Stay-at home-mothers being carjacked at gunpoint is real. A United States Marine veteran being pushed into a moving CTA train is real. And what is also real is our collective fear that violence could happen to us, someone we love, or just another innocent victim that calls Chicago home too.
Yes, we need proactive policing to stop the bleeding. And likewise, we need a significant investment into our young people, healthcare equality, and an economic boost to turn the tide of violent crime in Chicago. If we move immediately on those listed actions with steadfastness and in conjunction with one another; what is to be expected is beyond our most adventurous imaginations.
In conclusion, I’d be neglectful if I didn’t note that Loury’s tenure writing and reporting in Chicago began in 1999. During this period he has written on race, crime, and other topics that have moved our city forward and kept the public informed. Journalism is a cornerstone of American democracy and those who execute the task are public servants. That said, I thank Loury for his service to our City.
I pray for, and work for, a safer and more vibrant Chicago. I hope you’ll join me on the effort.
With every good wish, I am
My opinions are my own and are not associated with my department or any other officer on the department.