Chicago Crime During Pandemic

By Dom Jasinauskas and Myra Leon

Stay Home, Stay Safe ad located on Jackson Avenue at the Federal Plaza. This campaign encourages the City of Chicago to stay home and save lives in light of the pandemic. Photo by Raed Mansour

While a stern shelter-in-place order from Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot has moved Chicagoans indoors during the global pandemic, it hasn’t exactly put a halt to crime, an analysis of Chicago and FBI crime data shows.

The shelter-in-place order, which took effect on March 21 and has been extended twice through May, has forced the public to readjust their daily routine for the safety of everyone. Prior to that, many Chicagoans self-quarantined for up to two weeks as precaution against the deadly coronavirus.

And the data show that criminals may have made similar adjustments, too.

Chicago crimes are still being committed regardless of the shelter-in-place, particularly in four key areas: homicides, residential burglaries, scams and online child exploitation. Comparisons were made between March 2019 and March 2020.

Homicides

According to data from the Cook County Medical Examiner, in March 2019 there were 30 homicide deaths in Chicago, while March of 2020 had 29 deaths. These homicides were caused from gunshot wounds or gunshot-wound complications.

The absence of change between 2020 and 2019 showed that even a global pandemic did not affect Chicago’s homicide rate in the short-term.

Robberies

We contacted a police officer to get their thoughts. They agreed to share their opinion at the request to stay anonymous. Chicago Police Officer “Matthews” said he has felt that there has been a decrease in robberies and burglaries in the far South Side.

Officer Matthews stated, “As communities are being asked to shelter in place (if they are not essential workers), This makes the opportunity to commit robbery less likely. Moreover people are home now, so opportunities to possibly burglarize someone’s home (when they are not there) are less likely, making burglaries less of an option right now. Moreover, with many places of business being closed or having decreased hours, thefts of businesses are also decreasing.”

The 2019 and 2020 data from the City of Chicago Data Portal supports Matthew’s analysis. From the beginning of March to April 20, 2019, there were 616 residency thefts. During the same period in 2020, there were only 452. Over a hundred less residential thefts were committed. This data comparison shows that while some crimes are staying stagnant, others are indeed decreasing.

Chicago city officials have not directly attributed the city’s recent crime drop to the pandemic but have acknowledged it has coincided with the coronavirus. Several neighborhood businesses and some stores along Michigan Avenue have boarded up windows and doors after closing to reduce the risk of burglaries.

Crime scene on the corner of Clark Street and Lake Street. Photo by Chicago Man

Fraud and scams

Although the decrease in crime rates have not been directly attributed to the coronavirus, there are certain crimes that have emerged as a result of the pandemic.

On March 20, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a public service announcement declaring that they have seen a rise in fraud schemes related to the coronavirus pandemic. Scammers are seeing this as an opportunity to steal people’s money, personal information, or both.

According to the FBI, the common fraud schemes include fake Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emails, phishing emails and counterfeit treatments or equipment.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) Scam Tracker indicates that there were 18 coronavirus-related scams reported in Illinois as of March 14. However, out of those 18 only two scams were reported in the Chicagoland area.

“Email vulnerabilities are scams that don’t typically change. The only change now is the coronavirus topic within the subject line that causes people to panic,” said Siobhan Johnson, Special Agent and Public Affairs Officer from the FBI-Chicago Division.

Johnson said that one scam she anticipates to see a rise in are business email compromises. She added that this scheme involves workers receiving emails from someone they believe is a company they normally conduct business with as an attempt to reveal their personal information.

Scammers have been targeting people from the government and have now moved to people working online,” said Johnson. “The victims that are most affected by these crimes are young adults and elderly people.”

Johnson added that young adults should be careful with what they post on their social media platforms because it can reveal potential answers to their security questions. Overall, she urges everyone to use good cyber-hygiene and security measures.

Child exploitation

Another crime that has been on the FBI’s radar is online child exploitation.

On March 23, the FBI issued a press release to inform parents, educators, caregivers and children about the increased risk of child exploitation due to the newly developing environment.

According to the FBI, online sexual exploitation comes in many forms. Individuals may coerce victims into providing sexually explicit images or videos of themselves, often in compliance with offenders’ threats to post the images publicly.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention reported that the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program conducted more than 81,000 investigations and 85,700 forensic exams during the 2019 fiscal year. These efforts resulted in the arrests of more than 9,500 individuals. 

Johnson encouraged parents and caregivers to find an opportunity to teach their children about Internet safety and safe online surfing.

When asked if the FBI anticipated these crimes, Johnson said that the FBI knew these crimes were imminent and were prepared for it.

“Everytime there is a crisis, scammers are behind it,” said Johnson. “It is important to stop, take a deep breath, and look at the information before taking any further steps.”


Your thoughts

As the coronavirus continues to spread, there are more precautions being taken. As of April 22, 2020, there are 9,313 confirmed coronavirus cases in Cook County (this excludes Chicago, Evanston, Oak Park, Skokie, and Stickney Township).

According to The New York Times, the Cook County jail is now the nation’s largest-known source of coronavirus infections. One measure the Cook County Sheriff’s Office took included the release of several hundred inmates charged with or convicted of nonviolent crimes.

Although the inmates that were released were charged with nonviolent crimes, could this decision potentially affect other crime rates in Chicago? Or will they stay stagnant? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.

False Information Leads To COVID-19 Myths

By Myra Leon

As the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) continues to spread, more media outlets and people continue to release more information about the disease and its impact. However, not all the information that’s released is true. In some cases, rumors or myths are released which cause more panic and harm.

According to the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, fake news about COVID-19 can be as dangerous as the virus. During the Munich Security conference, Ghebreyesus mentioned that we’re not only fighting an epidemic, but also an infodemic.

With social media playing a dominant role in the way information is shared, it is important that people turn to reliable outlets to receive the latest facts about COVID-19. Some outlets include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and WHO. 

According to Kate Starbird of Washington State University, who’s a leading expert on “crisis informatics”, crises always generate levels of high uncertainty. This leads people to seek information about the threat in order to resolve uncertainty and to reduce anxiety. 

In efforts to reduce anxiety and uncertainty, please read this infographic which includes five myths about COVID-19 and the facts or truth behind each myth. 

Chicago Braces For Harsh Winters

By Myra Leon

Although this winter is reported to be one of the warmest, Chicago has seen harsh winters with record breaking temperatures.

In Jan. 2019, the coldest temperature in Chicago in 34 years of 23 degrees below zero was recorded. To combat these extreme temperatures and help its residents, the City of Chicago has warming centers across the city to help those in need.

According to data from the Chicago Data Portal, warming centers range from libraries to police stations. With summer quickly approaching, cooling centers will be the new concern for Chicago residents.

Analysis: 2020 Super Bowl Halftime Success, José Altuve’s Part In Astros Cheating Scandal

By Myra Leon

Shakira’s World Cup Success Translates During Halftime Performance

On September 26, 2019, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira both announced that they will be performing during the 2020 Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show. 

This announcement came after Jay-Z’s record label, Roc Nation, announced that they will be partnering with the NFL. Since Miami is widely recognized as the global capital of the Latin music business, Jay-Z’s affiliation was instrumental to bring both Latin women to the stage. 

Although both women made history as the first Latina artists to headline the Super Bowl halftime show, Shakira made more impressions during and after the show. According to an analysis of Google search data, J.Lo had fewer searches than Shakira despite her recent role in the motion picture, Hustlers

Prior to performing on the NFL stage, Shakira had already performed on a worldwide stage during the 2006, 2010, and 2014 World Cup closing ceremonies. During the 2010 World Cup, she performed the biggest-selling World Cup song of all time, “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa).”

Although both Latina artists have a huge social following and have successful careers in the entrainment industry. Did Shakira’s prior success on a worldwide stage trump Jennifer Lopez’s success on the NFL stage? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section. 

José Altuve Singled Out

On November 12, 2019, Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich released an article on The Athletic exposing the Houston Astros for illegally stealing signs using electronics for three years, from 2017 to 2019. It was revealed that they had a camera in center field, a video monitor near the dugout, banging on trash cans to signal pitches. One of the alleged players that was involved in the cheating scandal was 2017 American League MVP, José Altuve.

According to an analysis of Google search data, the second basemen had more searches than two other players who were also allegedly involved in the scandal, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa. 

During the 2019 American League Championship, Altuve hit a walk-off home off New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman to clinch the series. As he crossed the plate, he told teammates not to rip off his jersey and clutched the buttons with his hands. There was speculation that Astros hitters had used buzzers to signal pitching changes.

Although José Altuve denied these allegations, many fans and critics are unsure who to believe after a recent statement was made from teammate Carlos Correa.

In response to Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger, Carlos Correa defended his teammate by stating that he didn’t partake in any methods used to cheat. He also mentioned that the reason why he didn’t want his shirt ripped off was because he had an unfinished tattoo. This statement came after José Altuve revealed that his wife didn’t want him to have his shirt ripped off. 

Since the Houston Astros confirmed that they did cheat, many players in the league have inputted their take on the situation. As of now, the Houston Astros still remain the 2017 World Series Champions.

Splash Mountain Raining Threes

By Myra Leon

Brook Lopez, also known as Splash Mountain, is the 7-foot center for the Milwaukee Bucks.

The right-hand shooter is averaging 10.8 points per game this season, 1.4 of which are triples. Last season, Lopez averaged 12.5 per game, 2.3 of which were threes. Although these numbers are great, Brook Lopez did not perform like this in previous seasons.

When Lopez entered the league in 2008 with New Jersey Nets, now the Brooklyn Nets, his 3-point field goal attempts were 0.0 per game. This remained at 0.0 until his 2013-14 season with the Nets when it increased to 0.1 attempts per game. 

In his last two seasons with the Brooklyn Nets, Lopez began developing his 3-point skills. He jumped from 0.2 to 5.2 three-point field goal attempts per game.

During his season with Lakers, he still performed great, but he didn’t exceed his 2016-17 record for 3-point attempts until his first season with the Milwaukee Bucks. 

In his 2018-19 season, Lopez set his highest record for 3-point field goal attempts of 6.3. His 2-point field goal attempts were lower for the first time since the start of his career in 2008. This trend is projected to remain the same at the end of the 2019-20 regular season. 

When asked about the evolution of his 3-point shooting, Lopez mentions that he has always had confidence in shooting a three, but not to the extent of which he was performing. In his first season with the Bucks, Lopez was shooting from 28 feet out or further, trailing only Stephen Curry, Trae Young, and Damian Lillard

Other players like the ones mentioned and teams such as the Houston Rockets have set new records for three-point shooting. The NBA noticed these game changes and even tested players’ abilities during this year’s 2020 All-Star Weekend.

This year, the 2020 Mountain Dew 3-point Contest featured two ball pedestals that were located 6 feet behind the 3-point line, and shots were worth three points. 

Despite Brook Lopez raining threes during his two seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks, he was not selected to participate in the 3-point contest. Should have he been selected? Please leave a comment. 

Chicago Cubs Attendance In 2008 vs. 2016

By Myra Leon

Despite the Chicago Cubs winning the 2016 World Series, attendance in 2008 was higher by more than 67,780.

Prior to 2016, the Cubs came close in ending the longest World Series drought in Major League Baseball in 2008 after winning back-to-back division titles.

With key players in their roster such as Carlos Zambrano, Derrek Lee, and Alfonso Soriano, fans believed that the curse will finally be broken in 2008 and the attendance data reflected this confidence.

The Cubs ended up being swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and finished their season 97-64. The ‘lovable losers’ would have to wait another eight years to see the Cubs finally win the World Series.

Could other factors have impacted ticket sales during 2008 and 2016? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section.

Quinn: Pensions Threatening MAP Grant Program

Gov. Pat Quinn talks about MAP grants at DePaul University. (Photo by Josclynn Brandon)

Editor’s note: This story was originally posted on Dec. 12, 2012 and is housed at RedLineProject.org

By Bob Smith

Gov. Pat Quinn visited DePaul University’s Loop campus on Wednesday to discuss how pension reform is harming the Monetary Award Program (MAP) college scholarships and access to higher education in Illinois.

“This is so important to our state, not only in the past, but certainly now and in the future,” Quinn said.
“We want everyone to have the opportunity to go to college that has the ability to go to college.”

MAP grants are need-based college scholarships that allow merit students who are in need across the state and do not need to be repaid by the student. Quinn said that due to cutbacks and having to pay more money in the pension amount, almost 18,000 students lost their MAP grant scholarships this year.

“We do not want anyone denied that opportunity because of finances,” Quinn said. “We can’t afford to lose all the talent that exists, all the ability that exists for higher education to help our economy and to help all of us, because there are financial challenges that deny someone the opportunity to go to community college or a four-year university — public and private — in our state.”

Quinn was joined by several Illinois college students, including DePaul Student Government Association Vice President Casey Clemmons.

“Every year over 5,000 DePaul students receive MAP grants, and just like the students who have already spoken here today, all of these DePaul students rely on this funding in order to continue their college careers,” Clemmons said.

“Because the number of Illinois students eligible to receive MAP is currently increasing, existing funding does not allow the state to assist all the eligible students. As a result, without action by the Illinois state leadership, more DePaul students than ever will see their MAP funding disappear this year and more DePaul students than ever will be forced to give up their education due to finances.”

More than 150,000 students nationally receive MAP grants each year.

Clemmons told the audience that on Tuesday, DePaul’s SGA unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Illinois general assembly and the governor to ensure the longevity of the MAP program. He read the resolution aloud and presented a copy to Quinn. 

Ken Thomas, a University of Illinois Board of Trustees student member, MAP recipient and University of Illinois Chicago student, told how he wouldn’t be where he is today if it wasn’t for the MAP grant.

“My mom, when I was in high school, had to work two jobs just to keep food on the table,” Thomas said, “and if we didn’t have [the] MAP program like we do today, I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today; graduating with a degree, hoping to be a productive member of society.” 

Having a productive and functioning society and economy is what Quinn says it’s all about.

“Jobs follow brainpower,” he said. “We want to make sure we have smart people in Illinois. Well skilled, well-educated students coming out of college with graduate degrees and diplomas so they can create jobs, create new businesses,” he said. “Our goal in Illinois is to have at least 60 percent of the adults in our state with a college degree or college associate degree or career certificate by the year 2025. In order to achieve we have to make sure we have a good scholarship program.”

Clemmons said that in order for that to happen, state legislatures need to reflect upon the question, “What must be done?” and do what’s required.

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