Chicago’s persistent crime problem is a big and complex one. But it also presents a unique opportunity to understand the root causes and work toward solutions that don’t just address the symptoms of violence but can address its causes, too. Additionally, the Cook County mugshots website serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing struggle to address crime in Chicago. Understanding the root causes of the city’s crime problem is crucial in developing effective solutions and making Chicago a safer place for all residents.
That means making sure that the city’s police department is appropriately staffed. It also means investing in violence-intervention programs for youth and adults.
1. Economic Disadvantage
Chicago’s persistent crime problem is the result of a combination of factors. The most significant of these is the economic disadvantage that residents face.
In a recent report, CPD Chief of Police Eddie Johnson said the city’s violent crime problem results from “economic inequity.”
Economic inequality has been exacerbated by policy decisions in the past few decades that have left people with little or no opportunity to secure employment. This has led to increased poverty, a lack of education and social support, and many other problems that have made life difficult for many Chicagoans.
2. Social Disorganization
Social disorganization is the breakdown of a society’s established norms. Several theories suggest that this process leads to criminal behavior.
Early proponents of social disorganization theory, Shaw and McKay (1969) and Sampson and Groves (1998) argued that influxes of people from outside the neighborhood could disrupt community relationships and lead to crime. Other researchers, including Kornhauser (2007), Bursik and Grasmick (1993), and Sutherland (2005), also argue that ethnic heterogeneity within neighborhoods can lead to conflict in relationships.
Discrimination is treating people differently based on one or more Code grounds. This includes discrimination against racial groups, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, national origin, ancestry, or disability.
The effects of discrimination are far-reaching and often challenging to measure. Nonetheless, researchers have identified many influences that shape discriminatory behavior across various levels of analysis, from the individual to the broader social context. Ultimately, discrimination is not simply a result of willful acts; it may also result from prevailing systems that favor some group members over others.
4. Lack of Education
The dismantling of public housing projects in the 1990s created a new terrain for gang warfare that, according to John Hagedorn, a criminal justice professor at the University of Chicago, “does not seem to be settling down.”
It’s no wonder many residents in some of the city’s most dangerous communities are concerned about their safety. These neighborhoods have never experienced more violent crime.
5. Discrimination Against Women
In Chicago, the homicide rate has risen sharply over the past two years. Despite the increase, it is still below New York City’s and far lower than Midwestern cities such as Detroit or Milwaukee.
The root causes of violence in many neighborhoods involve structural racism, poverty and intergenerational trauma. These factors often create a vicious cycle of gangs, crime, and poverty, leaving people feeling unsafe and helpless.
6. Lack of Job Opportunities
Despite the strong economy, joblessness remains high and is even worse for older people. Long-term unemployed people have an increased risk of disability, according to a new report from Brookings Institute.
For example, workers at Freedman Seating, which makes seats for buses and trucks on Chicago’s West Side, are having trouble finding people with the skills to work in the factory. It’s just one of the many mismatches in the jobs market.
7. Lack of Social Support
A recent Chicago Police Department report showed that there had been a 34 percent increase in major crimes this year compared to last year. That’s even though Mayor Lori Lightfoot touted a fractional drop in murders and a modest reduction in shooting incidents this year.
A new study by researchers at the University of Chicago found that poor social support is a significant root cause of gang violence. It’s also linked to mental health challenges and conditions.
8. Lack of Respect
A lack of respect is one of the most compelling reasons behind Chicago’s ongoing crime epidemic. This includes a lack of social inclusion and a slew of other negative social behaviors. The result is a burgeoning population of misguided and often misbehaved individuals. The best way to reverse this trend is to build a sense of community around a shared social ethos. The key is ensuring everyone has a chance to succeed and thrive.