Austin: Chicago’s Deadliest Neighborhood?

The West Side neighborhood has 34 homicides in the past 12 months, by far the most of any community area. But it’s also the largest community area in Chicago. What happens when you break down the numbers a bit?

Via @eads and @onyxfish, Lorene Yue in Crain’s has an excellent piece on violence in the far west Austin neighborhood, and the immense difficulties of running a business in a high-crime Chicago area—the risks of robbery, the costs of security, and the lack of business:

Some blocks, particularly the ones occupied by big-box retail, have well-lit parking lots. Others have empty storefronts and padlocked gates. Closer inspection often reveals bullet holes. Dedra and Nicole Williams, sisters who run their parents’ Doggie Inn bar on North Avenue, say their front windows were last damaged by gunfire in December.

[snip]

B&S Hardware now closes at 6 p.m.—an hour earlier than it used to. J-Bees clothing store has a security guard at the front door keeping an eye on customers as they pass through metal detectors. Walgreen Co. says it increased security personnel and ordered additional parking lot cameras for its Austin stores.

It’s a very good piece, so I don’t mean to pick on it when I raise the question of whether Austin is “the city’s deadliest neighborhood.” By raw numbers, it is—34 homicides in the past 12 months, eight more than West Englewood. Austin has had the most homicides in the city over the past three, six, and nine-month timeframes as well. But I’m bringing it up because Austin has the most crimes of different kinds, and it’s worth keeping in mind, at least, that it’s also the largest community area in Chicago by population: 98,514 in 2010, a little bit bigger than Lakeview (94,368). While there’s no question that there are a lot of homicides in Austin, whether or not it’s the “deadliest” depends on what number you want to base it on.

If you look at homicides by police beat (right) instead of community area (left), you also get a different sense of how crime is distributed. Red is 7-10 for beats, 17-34 for community areas; pink, 3-6 and 7-16; yellow, 1-2 and 3-6, all for the past 12 months:

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Looking at first- and second-degree murders per 100,000, a typical means of comparison, gives a different picture. I looked at the community areas with at least 10 in the past 12 months, using data from the CPD’s ClearPath.

Neighborhood Population Homicides Homicides per 100k
Washington Park 11,717 10 85.3
West Garfield Park 18,001 14 77.8
West Englewood 35,505 26 73.2
Woodlawn 25,983 18 69.3
Greater Grand Crossing 32,602 22 67.5
Englewood 30,654 19 62.0
North Lawndale 35,912 21 58.5
Chicago Lawn 55,628 26 46.7
New City 44,377 20 45.1
Chatham 31,028 11 35.5
Auburn Gresham 48,743 17 34.9
Austin 98,514 34 34.5
South Shore 49,767 17 34.2
West Pullman 29,651 10 33.7
Roseland 44,619 14 31.4
Humboldt Park 56,323 13 23.1
Brighton Park 45,368 10 22.0
Near West Side 54,881 11 20.0
South Lawndale 79,288 14 17.7

Austin is the northwest-most community area in red, but it contains only one of the five deadliest police beats (1523, with eight homicides in the past year; four of the top five have eight homicides, the fifth has had seven in the past 12 months). Beat 1523 is very small: four blocks by five blocks on either side of Lake Street, surrounding Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy, opened in 2006 to train students for manufacturing jobs, and the first of the Renaissance 2010 schools to close:

The high school’s mission was to prepare students for college and careers in business, but many incoming students scored at the 3rd or 4th grade reading level, and the school had a difficult time finding and retaining certified teachers who could teach business. The school’s administrators decided not to renew the contract when it expires in June, said Michael Bakalis, president of American Quality Schools, the charter network which runs the high school as well as 15 elementary schools in Illinois, Indiana and Missouri.

In the past 12 months, there have been two homicides in each three-month period in beat 1523.

Related: Speaking of maps, “Poverty in Chicago as a CTA Map” is really good.

 

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