Saturday, December 29, 2012

Police playing about with crime stats? We’re still likely to reach 500 homicides

It’s almost comical when you think about it.

Chicago on Thursday officially reached its 500th homicide of the year (keep in mind that not all homicides are murder). A dubious statistic.

YET IT SEEMS that some people want to keep us under the 500 mark – and are determined to doctor the books.

Because a man was shot to death in the Austin neighborhood Thursday night. That would appear to make him Number 500 – the first time since 2008 that Chicago reached that mark (it had 513 homicides that year, with 2003 being the last time the homicide total exceeded 600).

Yet now, a previous homicide has been reclassified as an ongoing death investigation in which we don’t officially know the cause of death.

So it is premature to count it. So we were as of Friday morning back at 499.

I FIND IT laughable in part because I remember my own days as a police reporter-type person in the late 1980s.

Back then, Chicago routinely had over 900 homicides per year – averaging out to 2 ½ per day. Although in reality, it usually meant there were occasional weekends where 15 or 16 people would be killed in separate, and random, incidents.

Those would make up for the fact that we might go a few days in Chicago without anybody being killed.

So to think that some people are getting all worked up over the number 500 when the record-highs are 970 (in 1974, when the population of Chicago was still over 3 million people) and 943 (in 1992, when we had dipped to just under 3 million).

THERE ARE THOSE people who argue that the current levels are worse because the total Chicago population is about 2.7 million – which makes the murder rate per 100,000 people absolutely atrocious.

Still, I can’t help but think that obsessing over a total number misses the point.

The total number of people who are dying due to the deliberate actions of their fellow human beings (which is the very definition of homicide) is down considerably to what it used to be not all that long ago.

The fact that the homicide total in recent years has been on the decline (as low as 433 last year) is always a good thing. Yet there are no guarantees in life.

THE FACT THAT the number is on the rise this year so much is not an easy thing to explain.

Personally, I’d like to think this year is like 2008. The year before, the homicide total was 448. The year after, it was 459. Yet in the year that both the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs managed to make it to the baseball playoffs before doing their own dying act on the field, the homicide rate shot up over 500!

There probably wasn’t any hard-and-fast reason for it that year, just as there isn’t a simple explanation for this year’s sudden increase.

Which, when you come right down to it, could be considerably worse – even though in an ideal world, one homicide would be one too many.

SO IS SOMEBODY with the Police Department playing with the homicide statistics?

I would rather believe they’re not. Mainly because such an effort would be in vain.

We still have one more weekend to go through, then the prospect of the New Year’s Eve holiday.

There’s just too much potential for somebody to do something idiotic that provokes somebody else into committing the ultimate act of stupidity – the taking of another human life!

I’LL MOURN THE loss of the deceased. But I’m not going to think it’s any more tragic because we still managed to surpass the “500” figure in Chicago.

Viewing the issue from that perspective is trivial, and also downright morbid!


No comments: