Urban Dynamics Blog

Homicides may be down in Chicago, but adverse conditions still persist

By Matt Johnson

As we all know, the life of a young black man in Chicago is only worth the revenues the mainstream media outlets can squeeze out of him after he becomes another statistic to drive views, visitors, ads, and subscriptions. If we believe his well-being and the well-being of those around him is paramount to these mainstream organizations in corporate media, then we surely are blind to the realities of what the mainstream media has become.

Perhaps in Ted Turner’s day, mainstream outlets such as CNN would have reported such realities of violence in the context of the environment and the conditions of that environment. In other words, homicides just don’t happen alone. There are conditions and incentives that must be met. But today, different methods of how to obtain and address these issues must be explored.

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For example, crime was down overall in Chicago for the month of January 2017 compared to January 2016. As the data illustrates, there were 55 homicides in January 2017; whereas, there were 57 homicides in January 2016.

That’s a reduction of a little more than 3 and half percent. Obviously, this is good news. And so far, homicides look like they may be down for February as well. As of right now, there have been only 3 homicides for the month of February; there were 46 in February 2016.

If the rate of homicides remains at less than 1 per day, then that would be quite a reduction from 2016. But considering the adverse socio-economic factors affecting the area where the highest concentrations of these homicides are happening, it is unlikely this decreasing trend will continue. Why might this be?

In 2016, the West Side of Chicago was hit the hardest with homicides. Of the top 5 neighborhoods to experience the highest concentrations of homicides, 4 of the 5 were located on Chicago’s West Side. Here’s a little data to put this into perspective (note: Englewood is the neighborhood not on the West Side):


Of the 297 homicides from these 5 neighborhoods, 212, or a little more than 71 percent, occurred on the West Side. That’s quite a concentration.

To put this into perspective, I will see a concentration in a neighborhood in a particular city I study. In Chicago, I see a concentration in neighborhoods, plural. But like I said before, homicides do not live alone – there are conditions that reside together, and the mainstream media misses this point.

Note: these are 2014 numbers and so these comparisons are approximate.

In the case of the West Side of Chicago, 39.4 percent of its residents live below the poverty line, which is about 20 percent higher than the city average. And this doesn’t include extreme poverty rates, which would increase the West Side average to more than 50 percent.

In addition, the median income for the West Side is $26,292. In contrast, the median income for the City of Chicago is $46,195. Clearly, there is quite a difference in purchasing power between the residents of the West Side and the residents of Chicago in general. And this leads to some important questions.

What does the marketplace look like on the West Side? For the businesses that are there, they are constrained by how much consumers will spend and they are constrained by how many people they can employ because of revenue deficiencies and skills of the potential workers in the local labor market.

What would be some possible solutions to addressing such market discrepancies? As Mike Rowe has stated several times, there is nothing wrong with a vocational education. In fact, there are some vocational jobs that will pay more than jobs that require a four-year degree. In addition, a vocational education will take less time to push more skilled workers back into the marketplace where they are needed; and in this case, that place is the West Side of Chicago.

These are just two questions. There are many questions and possible solutions because these problems are complex problems. In addition, Cities are complex systems with complex problems and just reporting on homicides does nothing to put these complex problems into context or perspective, nor does it lead to possible solutions.

Thus, homicides may be down in Chicago, but adverse conditions still persist.

Matt Johnson is a writer for The Systems Scientist and the Urban Dynamics blog; and is a mathematical scientist. He has also contributed to the Iowa State Daily and Our Black News.

You can connect with him directly in the comments section, and follow him on Twitter or on Facebook

You can also follow The Systems Scientist on Twitter or Facebook as well. 

Photo credit: Chicago Planning History

Copyright ©2017 – The Systems Scientist

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