Cool Christmas Video or Criminal Act?

Many people like driving around and looking at Christmas lights during the holiday season, and that popular pastime gave John Pauly an idea. Equipped with his drone, Pauly went outside and recorded a 3:22 second clip of the holiday lights from a unique perspective. He landed his drone and uploaded the video, setting the footage to the popular Christmas tune, “White Christmas.” Many people have praised the footage in the comments section, but one viewer wasn’t too happy with what he saw. That viewer was Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall, who attempted to have Pauly charged with a crime.

Thankfully for Pauly, and common sense, the police chief was unable to charge Pauly with a crime, since there are no laws against appropriate drone use (There is one law that says it’s a violation to disturb wildlife, hunters or fishers with a drone, but that wasn’t the case here).

Although there’s no criminal aspect to Pauly’s actions – yet – the Federal Aviation Administration has slapped numerous drone flyers like Pauly with fines, since drones are technically classified as an aircraft.

Pauly takes precautions to prevent any problems. He said he always calls the local police department to inform them when and where he’ll be flying the drone, as he did prior to making the video.

“We always let the police know,” Pauly said. “You can’t be reckless with it, that’s when you can get in trouble.”

Drone

Michael Toscano, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said he knows regulations will be put in place for the new technology, but lawmakers should consider the interest of recreational flyers.

“This is new technology that has outpaced regulation, and we’re at the early stages of a bell curve,” said Toscano. “Look at the automobile. It took a while after its invention for us to realize we needed speed limits to keep them safe.”

Although Marshall originally wanted to press charges against Pauly, the police chief did concede that drones could be very useful in the hands of law enforcement.

“Drones can be used very productively for law enforcement if there’s a lost child or senior citizen,” Marshall said. “If we can get a camera up in the air, it can help locate missing people.”

Related source: Chicago Tribune, Photography Is Not A Crime

The 10 Illinois Cities With The Most Violent Crime

Chicago has made national headlines over the past few years as gun violence continues to plague the city, but the 2013 FBI crime statistics uncovered a few more Illinois cities rocked by violent crime. Here are the Top 10 Illinois cities with the most violent crime (Chicago excluded).

1. Rockford
2. Springfield
3. Peoria
4. Champaign
5. Aurora
6. Joliet
7. Harvey
8. Waukegan
9. Bloomington
10. Decatur

Rockford Illinois

Looking Deeper

For their analysis, researchers categorized violent crime as a range of acts, including murders, rapes, robberies and property crimes, like burglaries and auto thefts. According to the statistics, Rockford, Illinois, comes in at number one for violent crime, with 2,065 reports of violent crime per 100,000 residents. Rockford also had the most reported murders with 19, again outside of Chicago.

Other facts about the FBI Crime statistics include:

  • Harvey, which only has a population of 25,500, had a whopping 10 murders in 2013.
  • Aurora has the most violent crime of any Chicago suburb, with 601 instances per 100,000 residents.
  • Cairo, a city of only 2,608 residents, had 22 reported cases of arson in 2013.
  • Albers, with a population of 1,187, is the largest city in Illinois with no reports of any type of violent crime in 2013.
  • Chicago excluded, there were 202 reported murders in Illinois in 2013.

Although the FBI stated that crime in Chicago is underreported, city data reveals that there were about 204,000 violent crimes in The Windy City in 2013. Additionally, there were 414 murders, 11,000 robberies and 7,500 instances of violent crime per 100,000 residents.

The FBI said the data should be used to determine how local and state officials can best prevent crime in areas that are most affected by violence.

Related source: CBS Local

Summer Jobs Linked To Drop in Violent Crime

Summer job ChicagoA study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago Crime Lab found that summer jobs can drastically reduce a teen’s likelihood of being arrested for a violent crime.

The study analyzed behavioral pattens in three groups of teens in Chicago over the course of 16 months. Over 1,600 students were assigned to one of three summer groups: The Chicago One Summer Plus program (work), The Chicago One Summer Plus program plus social-emotional support (work+support), and the control group, who were not given a spot in the program. They were free to do as they pleased during the summer, but for the sake of this post, we’ll group them as the “no work” or control faction. Researchers wanted to see if the program truly did have an impact on youth violent crime rates, as study author Sarah Heller said she heard arguments from both sides about the program’s effectiveness.

“There are opposing pieces of conventional wisdom on whether a program like this would work,” said Heller. “On one hand is the popular idea that ‘nothing stops a bullet like a job.’ On the other is a body of research on employment programs suggesting that only intensive and lengthy interventions can improve outcomes among disadvantaged youth—that one summer could never be enough.”

Those in the work group worked 25 hours a week during the summer. Teens in the work+support group were paid for 25 hours of work per week, but they worked for 15 hours and received 10 hours of social-emotional support each week. Social-emotional support was designed to help students understand and manage thoughts, emotions and behaviors.

Study Results

At the conclusion of the 16-month period, researchers noted that the work and work+support groups were equally effective in reducing violent crime arrests by about 43 percent.

“The city of Chicago was courageous enough to put its One Summer Plus program to the test, and turns out that just eight weeks of summer programming decreases violent crime arrests by a huge amount for over a year after the job ends,” said Heller. “This is an incredibly encouraging finding.”

Roseanna Ander, executive director of the Chicago Crime Lab, said the results are especially worthwhile considering the demographics of the teens in the program. The majority were about 16 years old, almost all were African American, the typical student had about a C average in school, and many lived in areas of high unemployment and very high violent crime rates. She said it’s never too late to help teens in challenging situations.

“The One Summer Plus evaluation builds on other encouraging recent study findings, including those carried out by the Crime Lab, that suggest it’s not too late to help young people, even those who face serious challenges and come from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Related source: News.UChicago.edu

Movie Technology Helping Combat Crime in Chicago 

Minority ReportIf you haven’t seen the movie Minority Report, try to track down a copy this weekend. Without giving away too much of the plot, the movie centers around a futuristic way to prevent crime. With the help of three precognitive humans, known as “precogs,” the Washington DC police department can essentially look into the future and prevent crime before it occurs. The movie takes a twist when one of the precogs has a vision that the main character, played by Tom Cruise, will commit murder, and thus a warrant is issued for his arrest. A chase ensues, all while the viewer contemplates the moral ramifications of the idea, “Can you be guilty of a crime without attempting it?”

While we don’t yet have precogs on the police force, the Chicago PD is using a similar technology in hopes of deterring future crimes. The technology attempts to look into the future using a mathematical algorithm to formulate a list of individuals deemed likely to be involved in a crime. The names the formula spits out land on what the CPD calls its “heat list.”

Unlike Minority Report, a person on the list isn’t arrested or tried for a future crime, but they are informed that the police are keeping a close eye on their actions. Police believe the extra attention can help deter crime.

“This program will become a national best practice,” said CPD Commander Jonathan Lewin. “This will inform police departments around the country and around the world on how best to utilize predicative policing to solve problems. This is about saving lives.”

At What Cost?

While the technology sounds harmless enough, as a person wouldn’t end up on the list unless they met several factors – another CPD Commander put it bluntly, saying “if you end up on this list, there’s a reason you’re there” – and even then they only get a warning from the police, those who oppose the technology say it’s invasive, and at times, racist.

The exact science behind the algorithm remains hidden, and a Freedom of Information request to obtain the list was denied out of safety concerns, saying its release could “endanger the life or physical safety of law enforcement personnel or any other person.” Without knowing how someone ends up on the list, some wonder if it relies too heavily on demographic information, like age, ethnicity and living location. Some fear this could unfairly target minorities.

“First of all, how are we deciding who gets on the list and who decides who gets on the list?” said attorney Hanni Fakhoury. “Are people ending up on this list simply because they live in a crappy part of town and know people who have been troublemakers? We are living in a time when information is easily shareable and easily accessible, so, let’s say we know that someone is connected to another person who was arrested. Or, let’s say we know that someone’s been arrested in the past. Is it fair to take advantage of that information? Are we just perpetuating the problem?”

He added, “How many people of color are on this heat list? Is the list all black kids? Is this list all kids from Chicago’s South Side? If so, are we just closing ourselves off to this small subset of people?”

Without going into any details, the National Insititute of Justice, which provides grants to police departments interested in using predictive technology, simply stated that the algorithm only finds people “who the model has determined are those most likely to be involved in a shooting or homicide, with probabilities that are hundreds of times that of an ordinary citizen.”

So where do you land on the spectrum? Do you believe police departments should be able to profile and compile lists of potential criminals, or do you believe the technology is crossing into murky legal waters?

Related source: The Verge

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