The Geography of Sexual Assault in Chicago

At least three assaults were reported every day in 2012. Here’s a look at the parts of the city with the highest rates.

Photo: Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune

A sample rape kit in the biochemistry section of the Illinois State Police crime lab

RedEye, which has been tackling some heavy subject matter of late, has a good piece by Rachel Cromidas on how often sexual assaults are reported in Chicago (frequently, an average of over three per day in 2012) and how many cases go to court (not nearly as often).

I’m glad to see it get some attention. Homicides get most of the media coverage, but sexual and relationship violence is staggeringly common—as I’ve noted before, domestic violence is the main reason people go to jail in Chicago outside of drugs—and infrequently discussed. I’m pretty aware of the costs since my wife is a domestic-violence lawyer, but its regular occurence is irregularly discussed. So Cromidas’s news, that a task force is pushing for more and better data, is welcome.

The data we have now is based on reports from the city of Chicago, which the folks at RedEye mapped. The most dense clusters appear to be far-west and near north sides, both of which are pretty dense. (Austin’s almost always at the top of any list of community areas and crime, but it’s also really, really populous.) So I was curious how the numbers looked in terms of incidence and population.

Here’s a chart of community areas with more than 20 reports of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault, a total of 1,327 from 2012.

Again, a per-population comparison puts Austin in perspective. It had the most reports of sexual assault in 2012 (89, or 33 more than West Englewood), but it’s the largest community area by population. In terms of the number of reports per 1,000 residents, it falls out of the top 10—it’s not even as bad as the Loop.

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12 months ago
Posted by Doug

Interesting. It's almost always more informative to have a rate breakdown than only the absolute numbers, but statistics being what they are, there are always more questions raised. One is, for me, how population is calculated, and how that can impact rate calculation. The obvious data point where this seems possibly the most distorting is the Loop, which came out looking pretty scary. However, the residential population of the Loop is quite low, compared with the transient daytime population of workers, tourists, and (less significantly I imagine) nightlifers. I feel that for the Loop, the absolute numbers might be more informative, especially if combined with information on time of day of the incidents. Are these happening during the day at all? Or is it mostly at night, when the population calculation is probably more accurate?

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