A Closer Looks At Crime in Chicago

Chicago Crime RatesThe Chicago Tribune recently produced a piece that offers a comprehensive look at crime in Chicago over the past 14 years. Violent crime, property crime and quality of life crimes have all declined over the past decade, but let’s take a closer look at how crime fluctuates in the Windy City.

Crimes By Month

It should come as no surprise to any regular reader of our blog that crime rates spike during the warm summer months. Of the summer months, July was by far the most popular month for crime. Violent crime peaked in July in 12 of the last 13 years (full 2014 data not yet available), and property crime peaked in July in nine of the last 13 years. Quality of life crimes, which are defined as crimes that “demoralize community residents by contributing to physical disorder or social decay” – think vandalism, graffiti and prostitution – occurred much more sporadically than violent and property crime.

Although violent and property crimes generally spike during the summer, the overall rate of these crimes has dropped dramatically over the past decade. In July of 2001 they were:

  • 14,511 reports of property crime
  • 9,652 instances of quality of life crimes
  • 4,471 documented violent crimes

In July of 2013, the reported numbers were:

  • 9,912 reports of property crime
  • 5,967 instances of quality of life crimes
  • 2,604 documented violent crimes.

Crime By Location

As you might expect, some neighborhoods experience more crime than others. The breakdown can be seen below.

Violent crime rates

1. Riverdale (3.2 reports per 1,000 people)

2. Washington Park (3.2/1,000)

3. West Garfield (3.1/1,000)

4. West Englewood (3.0/1,000)

5. Englewood (3.0/1,000)

Property crime rates 

1. Loop (13.6 reports per 1,000 people)

2. Fuller Park (8.5/1,000)

3. Chatham (6.5/1,000)

4. South Deering (6.0/1,000)

5. Near West Side (5.8/1,000)

Quality of life crime rates 

1. West Garfield Park (9.8 reports per 1,000 people)

2. Fuller Park (8.2/1,000)

3. North Lawndale (7.2/1,000)

4. East Garfield Park (6.4/1,000)

5. Austin (6.2/1,000)

For more information about the report, head on over to the Chicago Tribune’s crime section.


Illinois State Troopers Assisting Chicago PD

Chicago PDIllinois state troopers are teaming up with the Chicago police department in a month-long effort to cut down on street violence in some of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods.

Nearly 40 state troopers were assigned to the department’s Fugitive Unit as part of the 30-day trial. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn said the troopers would be assisting Chicago police in apprehending wanted suspects with known violent tendencies.

“They will be going after the worst of the worst, looking for people wanted on murder warrants,” a source told the Chicago Sun-Times. “The fugitives may be wanted on the South Side, but who knows where in the city they’re hiding.”

The FBI is also lending a hand. The Bureau assigned 65 agents to the streets to assist in gang suppression.

“This is a new tactic the FBI is using in fighting crime,” an FBI spokeswoman said, “by working in a concentrated area and a concentrated time on the street — although the FBI has been working hand in hand and day in and day out with the police department.” 

The FBI hopes to quell gang activity by collecting intelligence and surveying street-corner drug deals. They believe tracking low level drug dealers will lead to arrests, seizure of weapons, and hopefully help track down suppliers. The suppression missions are expected to take place on Thursdays and Fridays over the next three to four weeks.

“We have to go to where the problems are and that means working the streets,” a police source said.

Brett Appelman comments

Although there have been reports that violent crime is down this year, summer is typically the season when the most crime occurs. Law enforcement refers to this period as the “summer surge,” and it certainly seems like crime has picked up over the past few weeks.

As I’ve said before, the reason for the summer surge is two-fold. The main reason is because school is out of session. Without school, there are more youth on the streets, and oftentimes this can lead to a spike in crimes of opportunity. Teens are more likely to be out late since they don’t have to be in school the next day, and this can lead to more kids being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The second reason for the spike is the weather. The warm summer weather means more people are outside. A robber would much rather steal a purse or rob a liquor store in June than in December. The warm weather also means more people are out at the bar, the beach, or in the park for a barbeque. Oftentimes alcohol is involved, and sometimes that can escalate an a situation.

Hopefully these law enforcement officials stay safe and are successful in removing some drugs and weapons from the city streets.

Related source: Chicago Sun-Times, NBC Chicago

Chicago Crime Linked to Streetlight Outages

Broken streetlightsA new study by the Chicago Department of Transportation found that the city crime rate increased seven percent when entire blocks of streetlights weren’t functioning correctly.

The report is concerning for a number of reasons. First, the city suspects that some criminals may be intentionally disabling streetlights to steal electronic parts, while others believe the darkness invites crime. Others say it’s a combination of both; criminals internationally cloak a street in darkness so they can carry out an illegal deed.

“When the lights go off, the shooting starts,” said Englewood resident Romona Burwell. “The next thing you know, there’s the police.”

Burwell added that the exposed wiring on some of the lights makes it easy for somebody to disable the light in a matter of seconds.

“They just reach up in and pull it down,” said Burwell.

Streetlight Data

The report also examined how quickly streetlight outages are fixed across the city. They found, on average:

  • It took 5 days to repair a block of downed streetlights.
  • It took 11 days to fix a broken streetlight if it was the only light out on the block.
  • Alley light outages took 15 days to replace.
  • Less than one percent of the city’s 327,000 streetlights are down on any given evening.
  • Battery increased 18% when an entire block of streetlights were disabled.
  • Theft, drug crimes and criminal damage to property also increased when the lights were out.

“We would look at the crime rate during the outage and then we would look at the crime rate in the exact same area but for periods just before and just after the outage occurred, so that way each area served as its own control and that made for a clean analysis,” Ph.D. student Zach Seeskin said of the study.

CDOT spokesperson Peter Scales said the study shows how important it is to fix streetlights as quickly as possible, especially when the whole block is affected.

“The conclusions of the study confirmed the practice we already have in place, which prioritizes the repair of full blocks of downed lights over single outages,” concluded Scales.

Related source: NBC News

Illinois Crime Drops During Chicago Bears Games

Sports CrimeA recent study by researchers at the University of California-Berkeley found that crimes of all types dropped when Chicago sports teams were playing, specifically the Chicago Bears.

The study was first prompted by a statement made by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis in 2011, who said if the NFL locked out its players and the season was cancelled, “Do this research… If we don’t have a season, watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up if you take away out game. [People have] nothing else to do.”

To determine if sports had an impact in crime rates, researchers compared crime statistics from two different time periods – The period while the sporting event was taking place, and the same time period on the same day of the week when the team was not playing. To understand which sports impacted crime rates the most, researchers compared crime data to time periods when the Bears, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox were playing. The study did not include the Blackhawks.

The study uncovered that violent crime, drug crime, and property theft crimes all saw a consistent drop when a Chicago sports team was playing. Most notably, crime dropped 15 percent when the Bears were playing on Monday Night Football, which is especially surprising considering their two MNF games came against the Packers and Cowboys, two fanbases not necessarily known for their decorum. Researchers also noted that crime fell 25 percent during the Super Bowl.

The data revealed “similar but smaller effects for NBA and MLB” games. Researchers did not specify exactly how much crime fell when the Bulls, Cubs or White Sox were playing.

“The consistent drop across all crime types — violent, property, drug and other — in conjunction with the absence of displacement before or after games, suggests the decline in crime is driven primarily by fewer potential criminals on the astreets,” the authors concluded.

Related sources: Social Science Research Network, NBC Chicago


Heroin Use and Criminal Penalties in Illinois

Heroin in IllinoisKelly Glish, the newest attorney at Appelman & Associates, recently penned a response to an article in the Chicago Sun Times about the rampant rise in heroin use, especially among teens and young adults. Below, she explains the personal and criminal consequences of heroin use.

Recently, during a conversation with colleagues, I was surprised to hear that the drug of choice throughout suburban high schools is heroin. However, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense how that came to be.

I have several friends who are grade school teachers, and I often hear about their futile attempts to communicate with parents about student misconduct, which is often met with resistance and a, “my child would never do such a thing” attitude. This type of mindset is likely the reason heroin is growing popular among high school students. Parents either don’t believe their child would do such a thing, or don’t want to accept and admit that their child is in fact using heroin. However, when it comes to heroin use, parents aren’t alone in thinking that it isn’t a problem to worry about. Local government officials recently realized that heroin is a bigger problem than they first imagined.

Realizing that heroin is a problem is the first step to getting Chicago and the surrounding communities on the same page in fixing the problem. We cannot fix a problem that we don’t believe exists. We need to recognize the signs of heroin abuse and addiction. We need to listen when others stress concerns about individuals who use and admit there’s a problem where one exists

The consequences of heroin abuse are grave:

  • Addiction: Addiction happens, and it happens quickly. Nearly 1 in 4 who try heroin will become dependent. Those who are addicted and abusing may have shortness of breath, dry mouth, constricted (small) pupils, sudden changes in behavior or actions, cycles of hyper alertness followed by suddenly nodding off, weight loss, unexplained runny nose, or cuts, bruises, and scabs from needle prick marks.
  • Conviction: Heroin addiction can happen to anyone – young, old, white, black, rich, poor, and even to your loved ones. Heroin abusers go to great lengths to get the drug, and it’s not uncommon for them to have a run-in with the law. If found in possession of heroin, maximum punishments start out at a $200,000 fine and/or 4 to 15 years in the penitentiary. If found selling, manufacturing, or possessing with the intent to traffic, maximum punishment starts out at a $500,000 fine and/or 6 to 30 years in the penitentiary. These are felony-level crimes. Beyond the punishment though, one who is convicted of possessing heroin can forget about getting government financial aid for a college education.

Heroin use is on the rise particularly in the suburbs. Cops are increasing enforcement and they will continue implementing sting operations. If you or your loved one is abusing heroin, it’s important to get help before the abuse results in a felony conviction.

We can’t continue to bury our heads in the sand, pretend the problem doesn’t exist, and hope the problem will go away on its own. The issue must be confronted, as hard as it may be, before it spirals out of control. We can keep our loved ones’ futures bright by coming together as a community. Awareness and communication are key.

If you or your loved ones need help with addiction or with getting life back on track after arrest or conviction, the attorneys at Appelman & Associates can help.

McDonald’s Employee Arrested For Distributing Heroin Through Happy Meals

Happy MealPolice in Pennsylvania arrested a McDonald’s employee for selling heroin through the drive-thru window by placing drugs inside Happy Meals boxes. 

According to the police report, customers used the buying code “I’d like to order a toy,” to signal that they’d like to buy heroin from employee Shantia Dennis.

Authorities arrested Dennis, 26, on charges of drug distribution after undercover officers conducted a purchase at the fast food restaurant. A subsequent raid uncovered 50 units of heroin as well as the 10 units purchased by the undercover officer.

“I’d Like To Order A Toy”

When customers uttered the magic words at the drive-thru order screen, they would be directed to the first of the two drive-up windows. After customers paid Dennis, they would be handed a Happy Meal box packed with heroin.

Authorities aren’t sure how long the operation had been taking place, but they said there was no indication that the franchise owner knew about Dennis’ actions. Dennis is currently being held on $30,000 bail at the Allegheny County Jail.

Possible Penalties

Although the story says the dealer was caught with a total of 60  “units” of heroin, let’s assume she was caught with 60 grams. Had this crime occurred in Illinois, Dennis could have faced some stiff penalties.

Under Illinois law:

  • A person can face 4-15 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 if they are found to be in possession of between 15 and 100 grams of a controlled substance (cocaine, heroin, meth, etc.)
  • A person can face 6-30 years in prison and a maximum fine of $500,000 if they manufacture, sell, or distribute between 15 and 100 grams of a controlled substance.

Currently, Pennsylvania authorities have only charged Dennis with distribution of a controlled substance, but more charges could be forthcoming as the investigation into the operation continues.

Related source: Chicago Tribune

Attorney Explains Medical Marijuana Laws in Illinois

CC image Medical Marijuana by Chuck Coker on Flickr

This post was written by Miriam Szatrowski, a criminal defense attorney at Appelman & Associates.  Miriam has a wealth of experience in the criminal and civil courts, and she specializes in DUI, drug, and traffic offenses.  She has also served as an Assistant Public Defender in Kane County.  For more information about Miriam, check out her bio or give her a call at (630) 717-7801.

Last April, I wrote an article explaining the marijuana laws in Illinois. However, last week, Illinois became the 20th state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. On Thursday, August 1, Governor Pat Quinn signed the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act into law. The law will go into effect on January 1, 2014, but many people still have questions about what the law really does and how it will work. I will try to answer some of those questions here.

Who will be able to get a prescription to use medical marijuana in Illinois?

A person who wants to get a prescription in Illinois must be at least 18 years old and a resident of Illinois, and must show proof of age and residency. (Note: There is no reciprocity with other states where medical use of marijuana is legal.) In addition, they must pass a criminal background check. They must also present certification from their doctor stating that they are likely to benefit medically from the use of marijuana. Finally, they will need medical records showing that they have been diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition.

What are diseases and conditions that qualify under the new law?

There are a number of conditions that will qualify a person in Illinois to use marijuana medically. If a person does not have one of the qualifying conditions, they cannot use marijuana legally in Illinois, even if it is recommended by their doctor. The qualifying conditions include: Cancer, HIV, Multiple Sclerosis, Hepatitis C, ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), Glaucoma, Muscular Distrophy, Crohn’s disease, spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries. (This is not an exhaustive list.) Terminally ill people with certain symptoms can also qualify.

If you think that you might be a candidate, it is best to speak with a doctor and an attorney to make sure.

When will medical marijuana become available, and where can people buy it?

The State of Illinois will be issuing 60 licenses statewide for marijuana dispensaries where qualified patients can purchase medical marijuana. They will be able to purchase up to 2.5 ounces every 2 weeks. Patients will not be permitted to grow their own cannabis plants. Instead, the state will license 22 places to grow cannabis, one in each district of the Illinois State Police Department.

It is not clear when it will become available. The law does not take effect until January 1, 2014, but even then, dispensaries might not begin distribution (or even be open) right away.

In addition, most insurance probably will not cover it, so it will have to be paid for out-of-pocket.

Can I be arrested or fired for having or using medical marijuana?

Possession of marijuana is still illegal under federal law. While it is unlikely that patients will be prosecuted under federal law for possessing small amounts of cannabis for personal use, it is certainly possible under the law. The federal government could also choose to prosecute people running the dispensaries and growing facilities.

The new law will protect qualifying patients and their caregivers from arrest and prosecution under Illinois law, provided they are abiding by the terms of the law, but it does not protect them from being fired if their employer has drug-free workplace rules.

Why is it called a “Pilot Program”?

The law is a pilot program because it is set to expire after 4 years. If it is successful, the legislature can renew the law at that time, or make changes and pass a new law with those changes. If they do nothing, the law will expire and cannabis possession will become illegal in all circumstances again.