Rahm Emanuel Out of Excuses for Chicago’s Murder Rate

Since Rahm Emanuel won a landslide victory to become mayor of Chicago in 2011, he has touted the city as “world class."

Chicago is America’s third-largest city, and is one of its three largest convention cities. It has the nation’s second busiest airport. It has highly rated cultural offerings: the Chicago Symphony,  a vibrant local theater industry, great museums. But in one area Chicago has clearly staked its claim to number one.

In 2012, Chicago recorded 505 murders. That may not sound all that bad, since in some years in the past two decades the city had over 900 murders (1991, 1992, and 1994). But it looks like a terribly high number when compared to New York (which recorded 414 murders in 2012) or any of the other ten largest cities in America, because Chicago is not only the murder capital of America in terms of experiencing the most murders. It also has, by far, the highest murder rate among America’s ten largest cities.

New York has a population more than three times as large as Chicago's population: 8.175 million according to the 2010 Census, versus 2.696 million for Chicago. In New York, the number of murders in 2012 equates to 1 in every 19,747 residents. In Chicago, the rate is 1 murder for every 5,338 residents. If 2011 population data were used, the comparison would be even starker, since New York’s population was estimated to have grown by 74,000 from 2010 to 2011, while Chicago’s grew only 11,000 in that period.

If there is one number to think about, it is this: Chicago is 3.7 times more dangerous than New York when it comes to murder, which is obviously the most serious crime with which mayors and their police forces need to be concerned.

If Chicago had New York’s murder rate, there would have been only 137 murders in the Windy City in 2012. On the other hand, if New York had Chicago’s murder rate there would have been 1,531 murders in the Big Apple in 2012.

If the murder rate comparison looks bad, the comparison of shooting statistics looks even worse. Chicago had twice as many shooting victims in 2012 as New York for a city less than a third the size; that means the shooting rate was more than six times higher in Chicago.

In 1990, near the end of the disastrous Dinkins administration, there were over 2,200 murders in New York City. So the number of murders has dropped by 81.6% since then, a remarkable reduction in the most serious crime and a feat unmatched by any other decent-sized city in the country -- or for that matter, anywhere in the world for a large city. During the same period, Chicago has seen a drop from 851 to 505, a decline of 40.7%. In 1990, the murder rates in Chicago and New York -- two cities with very similar demographic mixes of the population -- were comparable. Now Chicago’s murder rate is nearly four times as high as New York’s murder rate.

Forget world class, Rahm. When it comes to murder, Chicago is now in a league with Detroit, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and St. Louis.