Crime rises in Loop Campus

Crime rises in Loop Campus

On Upper Wacker Drive in Chicago’s Loop, there is only one hotel east of the 300 block, listed at $127 a night.

I know this because I looked it up after seeing “3XX E Wacker” as a recurring address on the city’s crime database under the offense of “prostitution.”

The description reads “CALL OPERATION”’; the location description reads “HOTEL/MOTEL.”

There were 21 occurrences in 2015, and 6 in 2016 — one of the few categories that did decline in a year-to-year comparison of crimes in that area.

But the Loop saw a 20 percent increase in crime across the board.

Chicago Community Area 32 encompasses the area west of the lake to Wacker Drive, Roosevelt Road to the south and Wacker Drive to the north. DePaul’s Loop campus Student Center is located nearly smack dab in the middle, at 1 E Jackson Blvd.

According to the City of Chicago Data Portal, there were a total of 8,951 crimes last year compared to 7,576 crimes in 2015.

About 50 percent of the entire increase was in the theft category — more pick-pockets, retail theft at department stores, restaurants or on the street throughout the Loop area.

Several DePaul students have been the victims of theft or robbery throughout the past school year, as reported by the school’s Public Safety office.

The most drastic increase was in the category of criminal sexual assaults. In 2015 there were 14; in 2016 there were 38. That does not include the general category also included in the city’s database, which differentiates between “criminal sexual assault,” “criminal sexual abuse” and other sex crimes.

Molly Hickey, a DePaul senior, said she still feels safe on the Loop campus, but not because of a lack of crime.

crime-inforgraphic
Information courtesy of the City of Chicago Data Portal. (Graphic by Lauren Johnson / The DePaulia)

“I’m still able to feel ‘carefree’ while also maintaining a level of caution,” she said. “I feel safe on the Loop campus but only because I make sure I’m safe.”

The Loop crime database also includes stats for crimes of arson (two occurrences in 2016), kidnapping (4), human trafficking (1) and more.

The description for the single human trafficking crime reads: “INVOLUNTARY”; the location description reads: “SMALL RETAIL.”

Most crimes on the city’s database have that little of information. The numbers of street addresses are halfway redacted.

Justin Edwards, a DePaul sophomore said he’s never seen the city’s crime database, nor could he guess theft was the most committed crime in the Loop.

When thinking about enrolling at DePaul, he didn’t factor crime or street violence into his decision-making process, and hasn’t thought much about it since being here either.

“When I think of crime, I think of the South and West sides. I don’t think of the Loop,” Edwards said. “I also was just like ‘it can’t be that bad.’”

This is amidst one of the most violent years in the city since the ‘90s. Most of the city’s violence has in fact been concentrated in Chicago’s Englewood, Lawndale and surrounding areas — on the South and West Sides.

In recent months, crime statistics have played a significant role in the way Chicago is understood by the rest of the country and the world. It’s reputation as a “murder capital” has been perpetuated by comments on the campaign trail and in the White House by President Donald Trump.

DePaul professor Alec Brownlow said that relying just on crime statistics to make decisions about where to travel, live or spend one’s time might not always yield desired results.

“Just relying on crime numbers — like any other part of your life, whether it’s calories or other sorts of stats — those are quick to consume, quick to interpret, form an image or impression around, but they don’t tell the whole story,” Brownlow said.

For instance, large numbers encompassing Chicago’s homicide rate, even if nuanced with regional geographic information (South and West Sides), don’t paint an adequate picture.

“Even if you live on the South Side, it’s not all of Englewood, it’s not all of Lawndale,” Brownlow said. “There are ‘hotspot’ areas. There are good areas just as there are high-crime patches of Lincoln Park or Lakeview.”

Without geographical and cultural context, it can be hard to accurately represent a person’s safety, Brownlow said.

“There’s no quantitative measure of safety,” Brownlow said. “Safety is an individual measure, how people perceive safety is contingent on their their demographic, personal experiences, age, gender.”

Edwards thinks his lack of insecurity about living in Chicago has to do with his gender, upbringing — he says he was taught to be self-sufficient — and personal experiences.

He said he doesn’t think relying on crime statistics is a true representation of an area’s reality.

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