The Chicago Police Department released data Monday confirming that crime citywide has increased from a year ago, including homicides, which are up 18 percent. Unless I missed it, no aldermen were outraged enough to call for hearings this time. Why would they? It’s August, the quiet time around City Hall. Plus, the spike in crime wasn’t unexpected; the numbers were trending upward at about the same rates last month and the month before that and the month before that. And of course the politics of the moment don’t warrant it: no one’s been shot during a festival downtown in the last few weeks, the governor has generously offered state police backup “near” crime-plagued areas, and the attention of the International Olympic Committee is on another city halfway around the world. What’s the point in publicly dressing down the police chief now?
When aldermen summoned top cop Jody Weis to a City Council hearing last month, they cited an unprecedented level of violence at the Taste of Chicago and questioned whether police handled problems as aggressively as they should have. But that analysis appears to have been based on anecdotal evidence—i.e., bad PR—rather than facts.
During the ten days of the Taste, the city’s 911 center received 2,634 calls requesting police from within the First District, which includes the Loop and Grant Park, according to the city’s Office of Emergency Communications. That was a small increase—1 percent—from the 2,599 calls made during the 2007 Taste, a figure that was up slightly from the 2,581 calls made in 2006.
It seems to me that anyone seeking to understand how police actually responded to safety concerns at the Taste would need to know how many people were arrested. But a police spokesman told me the department doesn’t know offhand, and apparently no public figure has asked it to find out. “After a thorough search, I must inform you that the Department does not maintain an existing public record or program that captures the information you seek,” Freedom of Information officer Matthew Sandoval wrote me. Digging the numbers up, he added, would be too burdensome.