Nov 17, 2022 - News

Violent crime has plunged in Illinois over last 30 years

Rate of violent crime offenses in Illinois and the U.S.
Data: FBI; Chart: Axios Visuals

The FBI released its latest national crime report last month, but recent trends are still unclear due to incomplete data from local police departments that still haven't mastered new reporting software.

Yes, but: If you take a three-decade view of violent crime in Illinois, it's clear that the state is much safer than it was 30 years ago.

Why it matters: Local and national crime continues to dominate the headlines and political debates this election year as if it's somehow worse than ever.

  • Though this analysis doesn't make our current situation any better, it does offer perspective.

Zoom in: Crain's Chicago Business dug into the data to find that "the North Side is as safe as it's been in a generation."

  • But the West Side is different. Crain's reports the per-capita murder rate in the 15th District in Austin climbed 274% from 2010 to 2020.

What they're saying: "The drop is relative to community space," Dave Stovall, UIC professor of Black Studies and Criminology, tells Axios. "If you look at the areas where crime remained steady and dropped, it is the spaces the police have deemed to be protected."

  • "But if you look at the spaces where it has stayed flat or increased, those are the spaces where crime was to be contained."
  • Although Stovall believes police tactics in certain neighborhoods play a role, he stresses that the drivers of crime trends are always complex and multifaceted.

What's more: When it comes to explaining the huge drop in violent crime, Loyola University criminal justice professor David Olson tells Axios that "15 different criminologists will give you 15 different explanations."

  • But he believes some is due to "renewed emphasis on rehabilitation in criminal justice, increased access to drug and mental health treatment," as well as an improving economy, prenatal care, school outcomes and access to day care.

The intrigue: While most statewide crime has gone down, homicide and suicide with firearms have gone up in recent years, a trend Olson links to new gun access.

  • "The number of guns that were purchased or produced for civilian ownership has dramatically increased in the last five years. It was a trend that started before the pandemic but really got exacerbated during the pandemic."
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