BY KENNY NGUYEN
Homicide Watch Chicago
While Chicago has seen a steady decline in murders since the turn of the century, where those killings happen have remained relatively unchanged.
Chicago Police reported 6,944 murders between 2001 and 2014, according to city data. About 78 percent of those killed happened outside.
In 2001, about 75 percent of the city’s 666 murders happened outdoors. In 2005, the total number of killings fell to 453, with about 77 percent happening outside. In 2009, 81 percent of the city’s 459 slayings happened outdoors.
In 2014, Chicago recorded 415 murders — including some people who died in 2014 from injuries suffered in previous years — and about 81 percent happened outside, according to city data. Chicago Police count murders in the year the person was shot, not the year they died, per federal reporting guidelines.
“One thing you have to think about is the location of a homicide. That will tell you about the nature of the homicide, or the underlying cause of a homicide,” said David Olson, a criminal justice professor at Loyola University. “So when you think about homicides that occur indoors — those tend to be domestic-related incidents where intimate partners are killing each other. Something on the street is potentially more likely to involve a gang altercation or a robbery that escalates to a homicide.”
Olsen suggested outdoor killings are often caused by disputes over gang turf and drug territory, or retaliation for other previous shootings.
However, Robert Lombardo, an Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Loyola University, said not all the outdoor shootings are about gang or drug disputes and they can often start with personal insults.
“Kids from those neighborhoods fight over stupid things over Facebook. Its just insulting people as opposed to organized gang activity,” Lombardo said. “Sure it might be gang related, but it’s typically just instrumental violence. It’s not for purpose — it’s for dumb stuff. Things like your girlfriend’s ugly or you got a crappy looking car or you ain’t s - - - and we are tougher than you are.”
A Homicide Watch Chicago analysis of city data found a majority of outdoor homicides were classified as happening on the street, in an automobile or in a house or apartment.
Of the 666 homicides in 2001, 35 percent happened on the street, 17 percent happened in an automobile and 12 percent happened in a house or apartment, according to police data.
In 2005, 47 percent of the slayings happened on the street, 15 percent happened in an apartment or house and 12 percent in an automobile.
Since 2001, police reported the lowest percentage of killings inside a house or apartment in 2011, when about 12 percent of the total slayings happened indoors. During that year, about 52 percent of slayings were reported as happening on the street and about 12 percent in an automobile.
In 2014, the city recorded its lowest numbers for automobile homicides. About 7 percent of the killings happened in an automobile, while about 56 percent happened on the street and 14 percent in an apartment or house.
Olsen said the reduction of indoor killings could be the result of domestic battery victims having better access to shelters. He also noted the police department’s risk assessment test, a procedure for domestic violence calls, could be another factor in the reduction.
“The police basically have an instrument that they check off boxes, and if there is enough boxes checked, then it indicates that the victim has a much higher likelihood of experiencing more lethal or subsequent domestic violence situation, and so they make referrals to services,” Olsen said.
Overall, between 2001 and 2014, 46% percent of killings happened on the street, 15 percent in an apartment or house and 12 percent in an automobile.
Olsen said there are a lot of “forces at work” that can lead up to a killing and noted every factor should be taking into consideration when looking at the decrease in murders.
“If gangs aren’t fighting over whose selling drugs, there tends to be less shootings,” Olsen said. “If gangs are happy about the turf they control, and the money they are making, and they don’t feel the need to expand territory … then they don’t shoot people. If something happens to disrupt the market, then there will be a fight on who gets to control that market, and that will result in some escalation of violence.
“Some have said with the public now trying to be more cooperative with the police to identify shooters and homicides that will contribute in a reduction because it makes sense that if you can get the killers off the streets … there will be less killings. If you get the shooters off the streets there will be less shooters.”