Reducing crime is hard. Sometimes it’s easier just to reclassify it:
Stung by a 16% spike in killings in 2012 that led Moody’s, the ratings agency, to downgrade the city’s debt due to its “unrelenting public safety demands”, Emanuel promised a tough response. Amid spending cuts, the former White House chief of staff to Barack Obama has ploughed tens of millions more taxpayer dollars into policing. Sure enough, in January he proudly announced that 2013 had seen the city’s fewest homicides since 1965 and lowest crime rate since 1972.
Yet a startling 7,000-word investigation earlier this month by Chicago Magazine cast serious doubt over the crime-busting miracle of Emanuel and his superintendent, Garry McCarthy. It identified at least 18 apparent murders in 2013 that had either been quietly redefined as “non-criminal deaths” or shunted off the city’s books by other statistical sleights of hand.
Professor Eli Silverman of the City University of New York, an authority on the CompStat-style data systems used by police in Chicago, New York and other major cities, told the Guardian he had been contacted by several Chicago officers concerned about the determination among chiefs to drive down crime numbers at whatever cost.
“The pressure from the top is unrelenting,” he said one had told him. “The defenders of the system always say ‘You can’t hide a dead body’,” said Silverman. “But you can reclassify one.” City authorities deny any impropriety.
That’s the genius of Emanuel at work. Don’t solve the problem, jigger the statistics. That’s a patch that will hold until the next election. It’s IBGYBG at work in politics, applying what he learned in the financial sector to city governance.