The Sights, Sounds, and Bloodshed of an Increasingly Lawless City

Two more weekends of violence in Chicago bear discussion, as the Hadleyville warning signs continue for the city. Video, audio, and violence statistics from the last two weekends reflect a city that continues to spiral downward. From the outside, Chicago has the look of an increasingly lawless city. As reflected in our 18 August analysis, Chicagoans are not confused. They are concerned about the city’s violence. Yet the problem continues. A video of lawlessness this weekend. Audio of lawlessness the prior weekend. Crime stats from both weekends documenting the alarming bloodshed. The last two weekends will neither help Chicago’s tourism bureau market the city, nor its residents feel better about crime.

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

This Weekend’s Video of Lawlessness

On the 400 block north of the city’s famed State Street, “that great street,” two men were beaten and robbed at 1:31 a.m. on Saturday, 29 August 2021. This incident played out in front of more than two dozen onlookers, as well as passing vehicles. And then not passing vehicles, as the attack moved to the center of the street, without interference. A security camera captured the attack, as well as the carnival atmosphere of several women taking the opportunity to “twerk” in public. The carnival was within 10 to 20 feet of the attack, and continued as the victims were left motionless in the street. The below video obtained and uploaded by CWB Chicago depicts a lawless city. The lewd twerking display still ranked second in depravity within the video shot, as it had to compete with the images of the victims being picked over by vulture-like thieves. They are the images of a lawless city.

CWB Chicago - 28 Aug 2021 Street Incident
CWB Chicago: Two men attacked in River North Chicago (28 August 2021)
[Note: This video is age restricted and must be played via YouTube. Click on the image to view now.]

The first line of the news story posted by CWB Chicago reads: “It’s hard to decide which part of the video is most revolting.” Secure 1776 concurs with that assessment. Even the final images of the 4-1/2 minute video should disturb city leaders. There is no sense that any of the attackers, thieves, or carnival participants were concerned about any consequence from a legal system. The attackers merely seemed to become bored and wander away. After being reduced to stealing the shoes of a semi-conscious victim, the thieves walkaway. The victims eventually crawl and stumble to then rest along a row of parked cars. The “show over,” traffic starts to weave around, and the many spectators return to their small groups and phones. Even without an audio track, this video of Chicago’s lawlessness needs a word stronger than “shameful.”

New York, New York" A Different Tune

The video reminds us of the Holy Week attack on an elderly woman in Manhattan, also captured on video. In that incident a convicted-murdered, released into the community with a lifetime parole status, attacked a woman as she walked to church. The attack was without any provocation. The victim suffered a broken-pelvis among other injuries. Secure 1776 recommends reading the article “New York, New York: A Different Tune,” for more details and analysis of that incident. As with the State Street video, the New York attack was in full view of others, who did not intervene. The New York onlookers were widely condemned for their inaction.

However, the State Street incident is worse in a key respect. While the New Yorkers did not intervene, they did not gain entertainment from the Manhattan attack. Such cannot be said of many of the Chicago onlookers. On State Street, the attack was a free spectacle nearly worthy of the Roman Colosseum. If Russell Crowe’s character Maximus, from the film Gladiator,” had been present, he might have asked the State Street crowd: “Are you not entertained?” Sadly for Chicago, it is clear many on State Street this weekend were entertained.

That is a problem that the larger Chicago community has a responsibility to condemn, and more. It is a problem beyond the ability of the police to resolve alone. It is a problem Chicago’s leaders have not come close to adequately addressing. It is a problem that Chicago’s Inspector General and the Independent Monitor appointed to oversee the Chicago Police Department (CPD) have been silent about. While anarchists were likely delighted by the video, where are the voices of the other critics of policing? What are the prospects that anyone will be prosecuted for the crimes openly committed?

Audio of Lawlessness Early on 22 August

During the prior weekend, a single minute of audio provides an example of what a lawless city sounds like. The audio is that of a single voice. The voice of a Chicago 911 dispatcher. But that single voice was speaking for countless victims and an entire community. The audio clip is from a police radio channel, covering the city’s west side. The voice, in the aftermath of another Saturday night in Chicago, chronicled a shameful list of “in-progress” crimes with no police available to respond.

The calls were stacked in what is known as a “backlog” of pending calls to 911, the emergency response system. For those seeking to “reimagine” what it sounds like without the police, take a listen. It sounds like this. The audio is a single minute’s list of what had not yet been dispatched in just one Chicago police district. The list of pending assignments was longer. The list of assignments dispatched that night on that same radio channel would take much, much longer to read. CPD Dispatch Zone 10. Priority One Calls Pending in the 11th District, 22 August 2021, 4:23:08 hrs.

It bears noting that among the calls in the 11th District’s “backlog minute” from 22 August, there were four ShotSpotter (gunshot detection) alerts. There were also two “shots-fired” complaints from citizens calling 911. On 24 August 2021, Chicago’s Inspector General (IG) issued a report questioning the value of CPD’s use of the ShotSpotter acoustic gunshot detection system. The system utilizes a network of advanced outdoor microphones, analytics software, and trained technicians to quickly identify locations where gunfire has just occurred. Police officers in the field can then be dispatched to those locations, even before a complainant’s call of “shots fired” might be dispatched.

According to the IG’s report, 9.1% of the ShotSpotter alerts reviewed resulted in evidence that a gun-related offense had occurred. The IG would have the reader conclude this frequency is far lower than is desired, given the multi-million dollar contract price to the city. However, the fact that over-tasked police field units (like those in the 11th District’s “backlog minute”) did not find a shell casing (or other evidence) does not mean a gunshot did not occur. The absence of documentation is not the same as saying something definitively did not occur.

In reality, the IG report does not attempt to determine the true level of gunfire in the areas of Chicago where ShotSpotter is active. Further, the IG did not test the actual system. The IG merely tried to match documentation of the CPD’s field responses to the alerts issued. The frequency of actual gunshots detected is likely far greater than the 9.1% advanced by the IG. We simply do not know what went unverified and undocumented, but did occur. On this key point, Secure 1776 would issue the IG a grade of “incomplete” on their publicly issued report. As presented, the report is misleading. The reader could easily misinterpret the IG’s findings as saying that ShotSpotter system does not accurately detect gunshots. The IG simply does not know this basic fact, as they did not even attempt to answer this fundamental question.

More On the IG’s ShotSpotter Report

Is a 9.1% match of alerts to CPD responses a “good” number or a “bad” number. The IG provided no comparison point. On this point, Chicago Alderman Raymond Lopez asked in a Tweet: “How effective is the 911 system?” The alderman has a valid point. Of the many thousands of calls of “shots fired” received from citizens, what percentage of those calls lead to “evidence of a gun-related criminal offense” being collected? So if just 5% of those “shots-fired” calls resulted in a report, investigative stop, and/or arrest, would the IG recommend that the city’s 911 center no longer take such calls? Would the IG recommend not dispatching those calls to field officers? Not likely.

ShotSpotter, Inc. asserts that with their system, the police are able to get to scenes more quickly. Additionally, many 911 calls regarding gunfire occur near, but not at, the caller’s location. As such, the system can often more precisely direct the initial police response. Once at the correct location, police can assess the situation and readily summon emergency medical personnel, if needed. Secure 1776 observes that the ShotSpotter system is a single public safety tool. Secondly, the system should not be expected to have a one-to-one association between each alert and a provable gun crime. Given what we know about crime, particularly public violence, such is unrealistic. Many crimes go undetected and undocumented for a variety of reasons. Such does not mean those crimes did not occur. So, again, is 9.1% a “good” performance level? Secure 1776 would encourage Chicago’s IG to go back and do a more thorough comparative analysis. Their report as issued is both misleading and of limited value.

Two More Weekends of Murder and Shooting Stats

Thru 29 August 2021, the CPD reported that YTD there have been 520 murders, up 3% from the same period in 2020. Additionally, there have been 2,319 shooting incidents reported, which is up 9% from 2020. In looking specifically at the last two weekends, violence has continued to be a problem.

CST Chicago Weekend Violence 23&30Aug 2021

On Monday 23 August 2021, the Chicago Sun-Times reported on the city’s violence over the prior weekend. The Sun-Times used the time frame of 5 p.m. on Friday, 20 August thru 5 a.m. on Monday, 23 August 2021. They placed that weekend’s murder count at seven, with 39 other people wounded in gun violence. The report also noted that there had been three “mass shootings,” incidents involving four or more shooting victims.

On 30 August 2021, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that this weekend there had been six murders in Chicago, and at least 50 people were wounded in gun violence. The report noted that five of the shooting victims were age 16 or younger.

By comparison, YTD thru 29 August, the New York Police Department reported that New York City (NYC) had experienced 299 murders so far in 2021. The NYC count comprises a 1.3% decrease in murders as compared to the same time frame in 2020. Shooting incidents in NYC stood at 1,041 (up 5.3% from 2019). It bears noting that the 2020 census placed NYC’s population at 8.8 million people. The 2020 census count placed Chicago’s population at 2.7 million. NYC has more than three times the population of Chicago. However, so far in 2021 the number of murders in Chicago is 74% higher than in NYC. Additionally, there have been 122% more shooting incidents in Chicago than in NYC. Chicagoans are not wrong to believe their city has a violence problem.

Emerging from the Hadleyville Spiral

In the end, no rational person chooses to live in a Hadleyville. In the end, a lawless city devolves into anarchy, and anarchy leads to chaos. If the community was carved out of the desert, when the people flee the chaos, the desert returns. In Illinois, when the people flee the chaos, if left to nature, the prairie eventually returns. If Chicago’s leaders seek to establish both beautiful natural spaces and have an inhabitable city, they have much work to do.

Step one must begin with turning away from lawlessness. Those efforts that seek to demonize the police and weaken the police-community relationship must cease. Violent offenders must be held accountable, and victims of crime need to be a priority within the justice system. Additionally, the Chicago community overall must be credible in its demands for public safety.

The community must loudly voice condemnation of street violence as carnival entertainment. They should insist that all those advancing police accountability, also commit to ensuring that public safety is a core priority. It is more than reasonable for the community to ask the Independent Monitor and Chicago’s Inspector General tougher questions regarding violent crime in the city. Without question Chicago must have a firm and full commitment to constitutional policing. But so to must the city have a full commitment to having a police department that is strengthened (not weakened) its ability to advance public safety. If the community seeks to reverse Chicago’s slide toward becoming a lawless city, they must hold their elected leaders accountable.

Not Familiar with the Hadleyville Reference?

As an introduction to our discussion on “Hadleyvilles,” Secure 1776 continues to recommend reading the article entitled, “It’s High Noon for American Policing,” by Thomas Lemmer. We also recommend his article entitled, “The Importance of “Us:” The Failure of Being Cast as Them,” and then “Tragedy-Free Policing or Else: The Need for Critical Thinking.” Finally, we recommend reading our other “in the news” posts with the Hadleyville tag.

We are interested in your thoughts, and invite you to comment below.

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