Oct 30, 2023 - News

What's driving Chicago's robbery sprees

Reported robberies in Chicago in 2023, by ward
Data: City of Chicago; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

West Town residents are calling on the city to do more to combat a recent surge in robberies.

Why it matters: Armed robberies are on the rise across the city, putting Chicago's new police superintendent to the test.

Driving the news: The Greater West Town Community Coalition has penned an open letter to the city suggesting new crime-fighting strategies and policies, from reviewing the current chase policy to evaluating police district boundaries.

  • The letter also asks for more cameras and license plate readers and for the release of more crime data.

Meanwhile, police superintendent Larry Snelling presented a $2 billion budget to the Chicago City Council last week, asking for more officers and helicopters to help track robbery suspects.

By the numbers: Homicides may be down for 2023, but robberies are up since this time last year. There have been over 8,500 so far in 2023, compared to 5,400 in 2022.

Reality check: That's still fewer than the 9,500 robberies police logged in 2013.

Between the lines: Even though robbery sprees are shaking affluent North Side communities, the 2023 data shows the majority of armed robberies are still happening in predominantly Black neighborhoods on the South and West sides.

  • "Obviously every victimization is a problem," the University of Chicago Crime Lab's Kim Smith tells Axios. "But it's not like this is once in a lifetime."

What they're saying: "We don't have tremendous insight about why there are more robberies while other types of gun violence are going down," Smith says. "It's a hard issue to understand, in part because clearances of robberies are so low. So it just makes it hard to understand the motives or even the individuals involved."

The big picture: Chicago stands out among other large cities like New York and Los Angeles, which have seen dramatic decreases in armed robberies, according to the Crime Lab.

  • Smith says that's "likely due to police management."
  • "Those police departments have invested a lot more than Chicago in data-driven management strategies, accountability mechanisms and increasing the capacity of their leaders to use data to inform decisions."

What we're watching: Snelling has pointed to data and technology as the focal point for catching up on crime.

  • CPD says they want to "focus on strategic deployments to address and prevent these crimes, leveraging technology as part of the investigations."
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