Urban Issues: What is the Crime Gap?

Image credit: http://townhousecenter.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/img_1751.jpeg

We’ve heard of the gender gap and of wealth disparity in the U.S.  Besides those and the gap that is the U.S. falling behind in education benchmarks, what else is there?  Cue the crime gap, an epidemic seen in many large U.S. cities today.  Crime has been decreasing (link) ever since the early to mid-90s, pretty much across the board.  There were about 10.2 million reported crimes across the U.S. in 2012, compared with nearly 15 million in 1991.  The 10.189 million crime rate we saw in 2012 was the lowest since 1973.

So, crime is going down, huh?  That’s what nationwide statistics say, that’s what the media says (link), so it must be true.  Cue the crime gap.  It’s a phenomena where despite the fact that crime becomes lower for a city over time, there are certain neighborhoods that actually become more dangerous, hence creating a gap between these neighborhoods in crime rates.

Only nine of Chicago’s seventy-six neighborhood districts saw an increase in violent crimes from 2011 to 2013.  Despite that, Chicago was recently named  “Murder Capital of the United States” a couple years back for it being the city with the most homicides (link) by the raw number; it had 506 in 2012.  However in 2013, Chicago’s number of homicides reached lows not seen since 1967, and the media quickly dubbed this as Chicago being an improved, safer city.  And for those seventy-six neighborhoods, it was.  But, as the media moves away from giving Chicago the crime limelight, about twelve percent of its neighborhoods continue to suffer, seeing astronomical increases in violent crime over the past two years.

Is Chicago getting safer in reality?  Overall, yes.  But certain neighborhoods, the ones that are the most impoverished and resource denied, continue to suffer from soaring crimes rates.  Chicago, you could say, is a very modest example.  There are about a dozen cities in the U.S. with violent crime rates that blow Chicago away in terms of per-capita violent crime.  Think those nine neighborhoods in Chicago, except in the case of cities like Baltimore, St. Louis, and Detroit the epidemic is city-wide.


The violent crime epidemic that continues to plague numerous inner-cities across the country is largely ignored by the national media.  In fact, when is that the last time you saw any coverage on the violent crime epidemic in Baltimore or St. Louis, much less a discussion on how to combat it.  I believe the general population remains ignorant of it, not because they’re selfish or don’t care about inner-cities, but because many of them have no idea what the state of inner-cities are. If the national media corporations were to post these two graphics I posted and explain the crime gap in layman’s terms, what hurt could it possibly do?  Make the corporations gain 1.5 million in profit today instead of $1.67 million, $575 million this year instead of $600 million? (link)  In the end, isn’t that a small price to pay for eradicating the disenfranchisement of inner-city citizens?


4 thoughts on “Urban Issues: What is the Crime Gap?”

  1. It’s very interesting to see how many cities have higher crime rates as Chicago, but at the same time some neighborhoods have dangerously high rates. In cities with high crime rates such as Baltimore and St. Louis, are the rates similarly uneven between neighborhoods?


  2. Thanks for your comment! In the cities with higher crime rates, like Baltimore, there are more neighborhoods with these heightened crime rates. Of course, there are neighborhoods that don’t see as much crime, but in those cities, almost every inner-city neighborhood is affected.

    However, Chicago is one of the most dramatic cases of “crime-gap” in the country because of it being an internationally recognized and iconic city. For example, the Chicago zip code 60611 “Streeterville” neighborhood where Oprah and Vince Vaughn have condos and 60654 where Miami Heat star Dwayne Wade has a condo only saw one homicide in 2013, and that was from a suicide in a hotel. If a neighborhood like that had even a dozen homicides in a year, it might garner news coverage. However, a few miles away in the “Austin” and “Englewood” neighborhoods, there could be a few murders a day and it would garner little to no news coverage.

    So, Chicago is one of the better examples of a “crime gap”, because of so many celebrities and wealthy people mixing in with everyone else. However, the same trends could be drawn from the “inner-city” and its “suburbs”, for example, Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

    More reading on Chicago’s crime gap:

    Thanks again for your interest!


    1. Thanks for responding! This is very interesting. How do you think we can try and eliminate this crime gap and reduce crime rates across the board?


  3. I also believe (and have heard) that there is more media coverage of a city like Chicago–positive and negative–because of its appeal as a tourist destination and as the home of celebrities/political figures like Oprah and President Obama. Who wants to visit or even hear about Milwaukee or Stockton? There are serious poverty and crime issues in those locations, but they don’t have the “appeal” of a city with the Miracle Mile, the Sears Tower, etc. How to get more interest, locally and nationally, for these areas and others like them?
    I heard today (http://www.today.com/money/jamie-dimon-100m-investment-detroit-isnt-jpmorgan-chase-pr-campaign-2D79695458) via an interview with JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon that the company was going to invest $100 million dollar in Detroit to help the city crawl out of its financial hole, creating jobs, better living areas, improved mass transit. No doubt the progress of this grand-scale endeavor–launched as it was on the Today Show–will be followed by the media in the months and years to come. If it succeeds, will it become the model for other cities in crisis can follow? Investment—financial and otherwise—could be the key to turning some of these troubles cities around. Let’s hope the media uses its powers for good to facilitate this.


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