Thursday, July 10, 2014

More fudging the numbers on Chicago's horrific gun violence

Gwen Ifill interviews Chicago Tonight's Paris Shutz on the PBS News Hour about the city's killing fields, after the horrible July 4th weekend when 82 people were shot, 14 fatally. Nobody seems to have a handle on the actual numbers from that weekend and PBS strangely offers three different weekend shooting totals ("up to 80", "58 people were injured in 50 shootings", "at least 14 dead, more than 80 wounded") in this same story. Ifill thinks it's because news organizations are using different times for the start of the weekend. Even if that's the case, there's still a huge unexplained spread -- 50 to 82 people shot -- because the media can't agree on when a 3-day weekend begins and ends. I think there's a lot more to it than that. Shooting numbers have turned into a political game being played by the mayor and Supt. McCarthy.
GWEN IFILL: How do you keep track of these numbers? We know that there are some discussions about a couple of police-involved shootings. We know there are some questions about what counts as a domestic shooting, what counts as an accidental shooting, what counts as a gang shooting.
PARIS SCHUTZ: Right. Sure.
Well, over the long term, over decades, homicides are down in Chicago, as they are in New York or L.A. They’re less than half of what they were in the ’90s. But year to year, they may be down 10, they may be down 20 from the year before. And by law, the police department and the coroner’s office has to report every homicide, but there are ways that some say they fudge those numbers.
For instance, if there’s a murder that happens or a homicide that happens on an expressway in Chicago, that doesn’t not count towards the city’s homicide rate, because the city says, well, that occurred on state property, so we’re not going to count that. Or if it’s a police officer that shot and killed somebody in self-defense, they don’t count that toward the homicide rate.
Schutz is right. Yesterday's shooting out on the Dan Ryan Expressway is not being counted as a Chicago murder -- even though it took place in the city and the victim lived in the city -- because the expressway is on state, not city, property. Now the mayor's people are reporting a shooting where 6 people are shot, as one shooting.

And then there's cases, like Tiara Groves's murder which was reported by the coroner as an"undetermined death" even though she was found in the abandoned warehouse last July, naked, the body badly decomposed, with what appeared to be wire near her wrists and ankles, and a gag in her mouth, according to police and published reports.

GWEN IFILL: The mayor, what kind of pressure is on him now to come up with a solution to this?
PARIS SCHUTZ: There’s enormous pressure on the mayor. The mayor faces reelection in about a year. He has trouble in the African-American community, where a lot of this violence is happening. In his first year in office, homicides spiked to above 500. They sort of went into emergency mode after the murder of Hadiya Pendleton, who was that high school student who had marched in the president’s inaugural just the week prior.
PARIS SCHUTZ: And that’s when this sort of overtime police strategy went into effect.
You did see homicides dip right away. But they acknowledge that is not a long-term strategy. The pressure is on the mayor every time a weekend like this happens. Now, the mayor has a significant war chest. He has a lot of money. He is very unpopular in the African-American community, but most observers say that wouldn’t be enough to prevent his reelection.

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