Chicago Fear

May Rice in The Morning News:

Chicago-fear-storyHow scary is Chicago? People usually talk about how dangerous it is instead, and that’s certainly the more quantifiable trait. You can use police data to model the probability of being murdered: seven or 18 in 100,000 as of 2013, depending how you do the math. Fear matters to quality of life, too, though, and it’s tied to the same crime data. It’s just conceptually different. Danger is the probability you’ll be the victim of a crime; fear is the probability you see crime as a real possibility in your daily life, something worth thinking about and taking precautions against. Fear is being the friend of a friend of a murder victim, or hearing gunshots while you’re making dinner. Each crime generates a lot less danger than fear.When I first started thinking about fear in Chicago—around the time I was seeing alley guy in the street a lot—I looked mostly at murder numbers. They’re tough to fudge, and there’s a database worth of them, laid out on a beautiful interactive map, on the Chicago Tribune site. But the stats prompt more questions than they answer.

In 2013, Chicago had 440 murders. That’s less than half the 900-ish homicides per year the city endured in the 1990s. In fact, as Andrew Papachristos noted, Chicago’s recent violent crime rates put it in the middle of the pack for American cities—eons from the country’s murder capital, which is currently Detroit. Chicago’s on track for even fewer homicides in 2014 than it had in 2013. Still, over this year’s Fourth of July weekend, there was a towering murder spike: 14 people killed in one weekend, and 84 shot. It was bad enough that Roland S. Martin argued, in the Daily Beast, that Obama should send the National Guard to Chicago. Not a popular opinion, but in a Gawker roundtable critiquing Martin’s “narrow-minded” solution, no one contested the problem’s magnitude. Jason Parham referred to it as “the terror taking place.”

More here.