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Crime by the Numbers and Beyond

Posted on March 07, 2011

By Bob Spoerl for

Jody Weis’ abrupt mid-week leave from his post as Chicago’s Police Superintendent got me thinking: What do the numbers say about crime in the 49th Ward?

Fortunately, the Chicago Police Department makes it relatively easy to obtain data about crime reports on a ward-by-ward level.  It’s easy; anyone with an internet connection can get these numbers.

But I thought I’d make it easy for you in case you don’t want to sift through the data yourself.

If you’ve ever wondered where the 49th Ward – composed of Rogers Park, but also West Ridge and segments of Edgewater – stands in relation to the rest of the city in total crimes reported, it’s a little less than in the middle. To be precise, the 49th Ward, with 5,081 total crimes reported in the past year, falls just within the top 20 of wards with the least crime.  To put that total crime number in perspective, the 28th Ward, home of Austin, on the West Side dealt with more than 13,000 total crimes this past year. The ward with the least crime among all 50 wards is located on the far southwest side; the 19th Ward, which includes Beverly neighborhood, had 3,211 total crimes reported in the last year.

I contacted Alderman Joe Moore for comment on crime in his ward.

“The crime situation in the ward has improved dramatically since I first took office,” Moore said. “Index crime has fallen by over 50 percent since 1991, when I assumed the helm.  I attribute this drop to community policing, of which I championed, and to the economic development of the neighborhood.”

Moore emphasized the index crime stats, which make the 49th Ward appear less crime ridden. Index crimes are more serious offenses, the most serious being homicide, others including robbery and motor vehicle theft.  Non-index crimes are dubbed less serious and include things like embezzlement, fraud and prostitution. For a full detail, CLICK HERE (

Of course, crime is more complex than numbers on a website. It’s even more complex than parceling out index (serious) crimes verse non-index (less serious) offenses or sifting through offense type.

“The index crimes are considered the more violent or serious crimes,” Bernard Garbo, a community policing advocate and co-facilitator of neighborhood policing in the 49th Ward said. “But it’s not like the other stuff isn’t worth considering.”

Garbo moved to Rogers Park in 2005 and shortly thereafter helped start an online community to help curb crime in the area called Network 2424 (LINK: It’s a no frills discussion board meant to inform and educate the community about the crime activity in it. Garbo said the most effective way to reduce crime is to empower and educate residents.

But it’s not easy in the police beat he covers. Network 2424, named after Police Beat 2424, focuses on a high crime area that spans north-south from Howard to Pratt and east-west from Clark to Ridge.

“The reason [Network 2424] got started is that we had some serious drug dealing and some serious quality of life issues going on around here,” Garbo said.

While neighborhoods like Lincoln Park and Bucktown might actually have a higher index crime rate than Rogers Park, it’s overly simplistic to chalk that up as a crime-fighting victory in the 49th Ward. According to Garbo, the city is somewhat arbitrary about what to label index and non-index crime. Aggravated assault (assault with a weapon) is considered an index crime while simple assault (threatening someone without a weapon) is a non-index crime. Motor vehicle theft and burglary are also considered index crimes. 

But a random purse theft in Lincoln Park, while probably upsetting to the owner of the purse, is not the same as a drug dealing upstart in West Rogers Park.

“It’s a whole lot different than when you have a brazen drug dealer across the street trying to claim your block,” Garbo said.

Teen drug dealing and gang activity is prevalent in some segments of Garbo’s neighborhood. Offenders coupled with a lack of public knowledge community policing, makes it even more difficult for Garbo and other engaged residents to spread the word about crime-reducing measures.

“The most difficult part is to keep residents actively involved and understanding combating crime is ongoing,” Garbo said.

Addressing crime reduction efforts from his position as the ward’s city council head, Moore said he’d stick to the same formula he’s implemented all along.

“I’m going to do what I’ve been doing for the last 20 years—work to enhance community policing and protect it from the budget axe, continue to work on cracking down on the remaining slumlords in the ward and continue to promote economic and commercial development,” Moore said.

In some parts of Rogers Park, excavating crime is an arduous task. It means more than stopping petty theft or burglary or other non-index crimes. It means stopping forming networks of drug dealers, in the most severe cases.

And in some parts of the city, fighting crime is a dire endeavor.

“The politics of class warfare are a major factor preventing more effective crime prevention in Chicago,” Kurt Fujio, a Rogers Park resident involved in civilian policing initiatives, trained in Chicago Alternative Policing Strategies (CAPS).

Fujio is concerned that crime will rise now that Jody Weis is out as police superintendent.

“Jodi Weiss departure is unfortunate for Chicago. Police Superintendent job is to fight crime, not keep cops happy,” Fujio said.

He said that Jody Weis was the “First and only police leader implementing techniques proven in New York City—techniques implemented by Rudy Giuliani, more than 25 years ago.” aggravates crime statistics nationwide; currently, the website ranks Chicago less safe than 91 percent of all other cities in the United States.

More Links:

ClearMap breakdown of Chicago crime:

24th Police District, covering Rogers Park

More about Community Policing and how to get involved

Neighborhood Scout website:

Jody Weis article on

* Bob Spoerl is a young journalist based here in Chicago. He attends the Medill school of Journalism and interned for the WTTW news hour ‘Chicago Tonight.’ Before Medill, he earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Philosophy from Loyola, where he developed an affection for Rogers Park. Read his weekly contributions at


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