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Chicago has a reputation for being a dangerous city, with high rates of violent crime. But when you look at the statistics, property crimes like theft and burglary are actually much more common than violent crimes like murder or assault. In this article, I’ll go over the most frequent crimes committed in Chicago, using statistics from the Chicago Police Department and other sources.
By far the most common crime in Chicago is theft. This includes crimes like shoplifting, pickpocketing, and stealing items from cars. In 2020, there were over 9,400 reported thefts in Chicago. That’s over 25 thefts per day! Theft can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the value of the stolen property. Misdemeanor theft is when the value is less than $500. Felony theft kicks in when the stolen property is worth $500 or more. Penalties get harsher as the dollar values rise.
For example, theft of less than $500 can result in up to 1 year in jail. But theft of between $500-$10,000 can mean 1-3 years in prison. And theft over $100,000 can result in 4-15 years behind bars1. Yikes!
So while theft may be common, the consequences can really add up if you’re convicted. Having an experienced theft crimes lawyer can help get charges reduced or even dismissed. Don’t take these cases lightly.
After theft, burglary is the next most frequent crime in Chicago. Burglary is when someone unlawfully enters a building or vehicle to commit a crime, usually theft. In 2020, there were close to 8,000 burglaries reported. Like theft, burglary charges depend on circumstances like the value of property taken. Basic burglary can mean 2-5 years in prison. But burglary of a vehicle or burglary using a dangerous weapon bumps things up to 3-7 years. And home invasion burglary while armed is 6-30 years2!
Many burglaries happen because homes or cars are left unlocked. So always remember to lock up! Getting a security system can also deter burglars looking for easy targets. But if you do get burglarized, call the cops immediately and contact a criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights.
Coming in third for common crimes is motor vehicle theft. This is exactly what it sounds like – stealing cars, trucks, motorcycles, etc. In 2020 Chicago saw around 8,500 motor vehicles stolen. Penalties for motor vehicle theft also depend on circumstances. Basic charges can mean up to 5 years in prison. Theft of a vehicle worth over $25,000 bumps prison time up to 7-14 years. And theft of emergency vehicles like police cars or ambulances can mean up to 15 years behind bars3.
As with burglaries, many motor vehicle thefts happen because cars are left unlocked with keys inside. So don’t make it easy for thieves – always lock your car and keep keys with you. And if your car does get stolen, report it to police right away and call a criminal defense attorney for help.
Now we get to the major violent crime on the list – robbery. Robbery is theft by force or threat of force. There were close to 6,000 robberies in Chicago in 2020. Robbery is a felony charge in Illinois. Basic robbery carries 3-7 years in prison. Armed robbery jumps that up to 6-30 years. And aggravated robbery (like robbing a bank or school) can mean up to life in prison4!
The key is that the victim feels threatened into handing over their property. Even using a fake weapon can count as armed robbery. And accomplices can also face charges, even if they weren’t the ones directly threatening the victim. So don’t let peer pressure suck you into a robbery situation.
Rounding out the top 5 most common crimes is assault and battery. This covers physical attacks against another person, either with or without a weapon. In 2020 there were close to 7,000 aggravated assaults and batteries in Chicago5.
Penalties vary based on the circumstances, weapon used, and harm caused. Simple assault can mean up to 30 days in jail. Aggravated battery using a deadly weapon jumps to 3-7 years. And severe permanent injury or disfigurement can mean 5-30 years5.
As you can see, assault and battery covers a wide range of crimes with very different penalties. Having an experienced defense attorney can help get charges reduced in many cases.
While the top 5 crimes make up a large portion of total crimes in Chicago, there are other offenses that also happen frequently:
Drug crimes like possession and trafficking
Weapons charges for illegal possession of guns
Vandalism and criminal damage to property
Fraud like identity theft and forgery
So while theft, burglary, motor vehicle theft, robbery, and assault are most common, they’re far from the only crimes Chicago police deal with. Drugs, guns, sex work, and more all keep officers busy around the clock.
The takeaway from all this is that property crimes vastly outnumber violent crimes in Chicago. You’re much more likely to be pickpocketed or have your car stolen than be assaulted or murdered. Still, any kind of criminal charge can disrupt your life. Even misdemeanors can mean jail time, fines, probation, and criminal records.
So what can Chicago residents do? Be smart, be safe, and know the law. Lock cars and homes. Don’t walk alone at night. Avoid high-crime neighborhoods. Never buy illegal guns or drugs. And if you do get arrested, exercise your right to remain silent until you can speak to a defense lawyer.
While Chicago clearly has a crime problem, most residents and visitors are good, law-abiding people. By being alert and making smart choices, your odds of being victimized drop dramatically. Use common sense and stay vigilant, Chicago!
Chicago is a great city, but it’s got a big crime problem. Folks who live here know that all too well. In recent years, Chicago has been ranked one of the most dangerous cities in the whole country. Things have gotten better since crime peaked in the 1990s, but there are still thousands of violent crimes happening here every year.
In this article, let’s take a closer look at what’s going on with crime in Chicago. We’ll check out the latest statistics, talk about what kinds of crime are most common, and discuss why some neighborhoods get hit harder than others. We’ll also chat about what the police and the city are trying to do to get crime under control. There’s no quick fix, but progress can be made if folks work together.
Violent crime in Chicago tends to happen most often in certain areas – mainly the South and West Sides. The most common violent crimes are:
In 2021, Chicago had 797 murders. That’s up from 769 the year before. To put it in perspective, Chicago’s murder rate is about 24 murders per 100,000 people. That’s nearly 3 times the national average. Of all the big cities, Chicago constantly has the highest murder rate.
Shootings are out of control too. In 2021 there were 3,561 shooting incidents, with 4,300 victims. Most murders here involve guns.
While the murder numbers make headlines, aggravated assault is actually the most common violent crime here. Over 15,000 aggravated assaults were reported in 2021.
Violent crime was at its worst in the early 90s. Since then it’s dropped a lot, following national trends. But it’s still way higher in Chicago than in other major cities.
In addition to violent crime, Chicago has tons of property crime too. We’re talking burglary, theft, stolen cars, arson, and more. In 2021 there were over 95,000 property crimes.
Property crime has fallen quite a bit since the 90s, but it’s still higher here than the national norm. Chicago is always among the top cities for property crime.
Crime isn’t evenly spread around Chicago. Some areas get hit much harder. The South and West Sides have way more violence. For example, the West Side neighborhoods of Harrison and Austin have the city’s highest murder rates.
Areas like Lincoln Park, Lakeview, and the Loop are safer. But no part of Chicago is crime-free.
Gang violence drives a lot of the shootings and crime in troubled neighborhoods. Chicago has had gangs for over a century.
Today, the city estimates over 100,000 documented gang members from some 60 gangs. Fights between rival gangs often end in shootings and revenge violence.
In Chicago, police have a hard time solving violent crimes. For murder, the “clearance rate” is only around 45%. That means less than half of killings lead to charges against a suspect.
For crimes like robbery and assault, the clearance rate is even lower – just 10-20%. Property crimes see more arrests, but still below average.
Low clearance rates hurt trust between police and the community. When people won’t cooperate as witnesses, it’s harder to find suspects. Back in the 60s, over 90% of Chicago murders were solved.
Why is crime so bad here compared to other cities? Lots of complex social and economic reasons are to blame:
These systemic problems make crime more likely and harder to stop. To really lower crime long-term, the root causes need to be addressed.
Lately, the Chicago Police Department has tried some new strategies to cut crime and improve ties with citizens:
It’s not clear yet if these new approaches can make a big dent in violent crime. But more accountability and community engagement seem like steps in the right direction.
To really bring down crime, Chicago needs a long-term effort on many fronts. Police reform is important, but not the only answer. Issues like poverty, unemployment, broken families, poor education, and lack of opportunity in disadvantaged areas matter too.
City officials, community groups, businesses, and regular Chicagoans will need to keep working together. With enough commitment to improve public safety and quality of life, Chicago can stop being known as the murder capital. It won’t be easy, but this city has overcome tough challenges before.
 Chicago Tribune
 Chicago Tribune
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