Only, that’s not what the numbers actually are. I’m not accusing Brown flatly of lying, as former mayoral hopeful and Fraternal Order of Police consultant Paul Vallas did in an email shortly after Brown’s speech. But, at a minimum, the police chief exaggerated and then some what actually has been accomplished.
Here’s what Brown said. The relevant part starts at about minute 29:
“At the beginning of the year, we saw a significant spike in weekly carjackings in this city. We were seeing about 80 carjackings a week,” Brown told the crowd. So, he continued, “We launched a new task force in this spring this year and we saw a decrease to 20-30 weekly carjackings.”
“But that’s not low enough for Chicago,” Brown concluded. “So, we added an additional 40-officer task force recently to further control the instances of carjacking.”
Sounds like success is on the way, no? From 80 a week to 20 and headed down.
Unfortunately, those figures and a few other things don’t quite fit reality.
According to police data, carjackings did spike to 207 in the four-week reporting period of Dec. 25 to Jan. 21. But that’s an average of 52 a week, not 80, although one week did hit that figure, at 84. Perhaps that’s tied into holiday revelry.
In the next four-week reporting period, the figures dropped to 123, and carjackings averaged about 90 per four weeks into May. But as soon as the temperature went up, so did carjackings, with 132 reported June 11-July 8, a total of 137 July 9 to Aug. 5, another 144 Aug. 6-Sept. 7, and finally 171 Sept. 3 to Sept. 30.
Yes, you read that right. The number of carjackings has about doubled since the spring, when Brown said those additional officers were deployed. And now we’re almost back to where we were.
If there was a reduction of two-thirds of more, from “about 80 carjackings a week…to 20-30,” it sure didn’t last long.
In one way, Brown’s argument may be slightly stronger than he made it seem. That’s because, according to a spokesman, he misspoke in saying the first wave of new personnel was deployed in the spring. In fact, it was in January, and the numbers did briefly dip after then. But they never averaged 80 a week, something the website CWB Chicago pointed out immediately after Brown’s speech.
I can’t yet verify that data. Brown’s department has insisted I get it through a Freedom of Information Act request. But according to data on the city’s Violence Reduction Dashboard as crunched by my colleague A.D. Quig, there have been 1,512 carjackings so far compared to the 1,102 in the same period last year, up 37% That’s more than the 908 in all of 2018, and the 733 in all of 2019.
Meanwhile, another of Brown’s claims in his speech may be suspect, too. That’s that a pilot program in which 15 high-crime police beats are flooded both with officers and wrap-around mental-health and other social-service providers is showing “promising results.”
According to data crunched by the University of Chicago Crime Lab, while there were modest improvements in violent crime rates in the 15 beats, crime actually dropped somewhat more in the next 15 most violent beats. Ahem!
My point here is not to hang Brown on details, or to ignore the fact that COVID is sparking carjackings and other violence from coast to coast. He has a tough job, and these are very tough times.
But sugar-coating the data won’t solve the problem. It will only make it worse. Ken Griffin likely had other motivations in his remarks yesterday about moving Citadel’s headquarters. But he’s right on one thing: Chicago needs to face up to its crime problem, and then solve it.