With the mythology of the prohibition and union-busting mafia conflicts, Chicago carries a reputation as a crime-ridden city when compared to other metro areas. The truth is, however, that illegal activity here measures only slightly higher than the U.S. average. 2014 marked a historic point in American history where violent crimes were at an all-time low. At that time, Chicago's rates were only about 9 points higher than the rest of the country.
It may come as a surprise to learn that violent crime comprises less than a quarter of index crimes reported in Chicago, with more than a third of those incidents involving robbery. The majority of crimes reported by the Chicago Police Department in 2018 were property crimes—theft, burglary, and motor vehicle theft—not violent crimes.
What Kinds of Theft Crimes Occur?
When imagining a theft incident, some people conjure up images of a street robbery where victims are threatened with violence and coerced into giving up their property. However, the most common theft crimes are not violent. Chicago reported that the majority of theft crimes involved taking merchandise or property valued under $500 from a store or from a building.
Over the past few years, vehicle theft has seen a steady decline, thanks to better security measures on vehicles. However, it is still among the most common criminal charges in Chicago, comprising nearly 12 percent of all property crimes.
Burglary weighs in at third. This offense is defined as the unlawful entry onto or into premises with the intent to deprive someone of their property. While you might imagine a pair of burglars kicking in your back door and running off with your TV, less than 13 percent of burglary charges involved forcible entry. Far more common was a charge of unlawful entry, meaning that someone attempted to steal something while on someone else's private property, ramping up their theft offense to a burglary charge.
Are There Violent Crimes in Chicago?
On the whole, Chicago Police Department has seen a reduction in the number of violent crimes reported. Murder, robbery, burglary, and motor vehicle theft incidents have, on average, reduced by about 33 percent.
Far and away, the most common violent crime is robbery, though it still ranks below the three offenses mentioned above. Any time a person threatens another with a weapon, whether real or implied, in order to take their property, they are committing a violent crime. Less than a quarter of robberies resulted in any violence. Weapons crimes, while a relatively small sample of index crimes in Chicago, are still among the most threatening.
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