By: Tyler Curry
In 60 days, Chicago police could be wearing body cameras, according to officials. The Chicago Tribune recently wrote an article following President Obama’s proposal that called for $263 million dollars in government funding to equip Chicago law enforcement with a 21st century policing technology. Upon funding, 50,000 Chicago police will be issued body cameras that monitor police-citizen interactions.
Mr. President, himself, proposed the body camera program in response to the events, in Ferguson, that led to a police officer shooting an unarmed teen, Michael Brown. Visart software was used to assess Chicagoland crime rates, by offense, from 2001 – 2013, using Chicago city data, to determine in what cases body cameras would be most helpful, and in what cases they would be ineffective.
Overall, crime rates in Chicago have gradually declined since 2002, with a slight increase beginning in 2009.
Earlier in 2014, police superintendent, Gerry McCarthy reported the good news at a council hearing – crediting better police work and pistol-packing permits. Further attribution by Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, noted the permit’s “deterrent effect” on crime – that is, criminals do not know whom can legally shoot back.
This is where the question of body-worn cameras comes into the picture.
BODY CAMS AND POLICE-CITIZEN INTERACTION
As recalled by the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO, police-citizen interaction has become a plight of public safety. If body cameras were to mirror the plummeting crime rates attributed to pistol permits, such video policing technologies could soon contribute to a similar deterrent effect; with police and criminals more accountable during times of discrepancy.
Interference with Public Officers
Controversy regarding police-citizen interactions have increased over the years. According to the chart, the number of crimes with police interference increased significantly since 2008.
Data suggests that the rise of police interference could be a correlation to the drop in crime rates; supporting the notion that body cameras could help prevent and account for unnecessary casualties.
Assault and Battery
Both criminal data sets show a decline and show similar trends. Each chart shows an increased decline between the years 2008 and 2009, with decreasing crime rates in the following years.
Assault crime values began at 31,377 cases in 2001, but dropped to 17,965 by 2013. Similar insights can be found within battery crime rates, with 93,439 in 2001 and 53,991 cases in 2013.
The chart shows homicide rates at a record level in 2001, reaching over 650 fatal cases. Overall homicide rates have dropped significantly since 2003, but yearly numbers are still unpredictable. What’s more, four people were fatally shot on Black Friday, this past Thanksgiving break, with 15 others wounded by gunfire, according to police.
Perhaps this is what Pearson meant by the deterrent effect. If the actor was accountable – or was under the possibility of surveillance – such an actor would be less likely perform the act of violence.
ARE BODY CAMS ALWAYS HELPFUL?
There’s a catch. In what scenarios do body cameras not work? Body cams show much potential, but at $263 million in federal dollars as the U.S. is just beginning to pay back the national debts the question arises: whom do body cameras really serve?
What about criminal cases between fellow citizens? In what way could body cams prevent criminal acts and protect potential victims? Let us look at burglary, sexual assault and stalking for insight.
Burglary crime rates were significantly lower in 2012 and 2013 than in years prior. The plummet first began between years 2001 and 2004, then began increasing in 2005 and 2006. However most recent (2013) burglary data reached the lowest numbers in 13 years, at 17,890.
Reports of sexual assault have gone down since 2001, but show a somewhat unpredictable pattern. Similar to burglary, 2013 is a year of minimal reports; counting for 1205 incidents. Whereas stalking shows an unpredictable trend overall, despite 2013’s record low at 151 cases.
USING CORRELATIVE DATA FOR SELF-PROTECTION
So how can citizens protect themselves in the absence of law enforcement? We look to data for insight on the peaks of criminal activity.
Crimes by Month
Charts reveal summer months as having the highest criminal activity – especially in July and August when numbers reached and exceeded 500,000 records. Cold months such as December through February show the least criminal commotion.
Crimes by Day of the Week
Most crimes occur on a Friday with 820,000 reports filed, following Tuesday and Wednesday with at least 780,000 reports filed. The smallest number of misconducts reported occur on a Sunday.
Crimes by Time of Day
As for time, expect criminal activity to be at a peak at Midnight with Noon just behind. Safest hours for Chicagoans are between the wee hours of 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. Perhaps these results are explained by sleeping schedules.
Even with the deterrent effect and better policing, there are certain petty crimes (i.e. public indecency) and more serious cases (i.e. kidnapping and crimes involving children) on the rise – as identified in the charts below.
Crimes Involving Children
Body cams are only the beginning of what seems to be a longer journey to exasperate the high, but declining, crime rates in the city of Chicago. Officials say the body camera program is set to deploy within 60 days. The pilot program is intended to catch information that a human officer could not see, or may omit during a discrepancy.
There are also discussions concerning whether the Chicago Police Department should be equipped with “military-style” weaponry in the future. The Obama administration has set forth a 120 day recommendation period to determine how the oversight of such procedures, including citizen approval.
https://data.cityofchicago.org/Public-Safety/Crimes-2001-to-present/ijzp-q8t2 http://crime.chicagotribune.com/ http://www.neighborhoodscout.com/il/chicago/crime/ http://www.city-data.com/crime/crime-Chicago-Illinois.html https://portal.chicagopolice.org/portal/page/portal/ClearPath/News/Crime%20Statistics http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_Chicago https://data.cityofchicago.org/Public-Safety/Crimes-Map/dfnk-7re6 http://isps.yale.edu/sites/default/files/publication/2013/12/48yearsofcrime_final_ispsworkingpaper023.pdf