By Sam Menegat
The Near North Side is known to the Chicago Police Department as District 18. It is considered to be the northernmost of three districts that make up the general area of Central Chicago, the other two being the Loop and the Near South Side.
Ranging from theft to domestic abuse, the Near North Side is no stranger to violent crime. Albeit the Near North Side is known for being a good part of Chicago — and being safe for residents and businesses — violent crimes do occur. So it is of ample importance that the point of exercising safety and awareness is recognized. Putting crime in Chicago in perspective, the following Google Trends graphic shows the amount of searches in Google for crime in the North and South Sides of Chicago.
Google Trends graphic, displaying the comparison between the North Sides and South Sides of Chicago. (Google Trends/Sam Menegat & Cory Moore)
Brian Farrell, a 26-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, oversees robbery cases on the Near North Side, which is, according to him, the most common violent crime committed in the area. Farrell attributed that to the general affluence and larger population of the area. “There are tons of robberies up there, because, for one, people have more money, and two, because victims are plentiful. And the bad guys know that.”
The stereotype of South Side violence may be true to an extent, but it is amply important that the difference between the types of crimes occurring in the North and South Sides be explained.
Being an officer for so long, Farrell was able to break down the geographical difference in crimes around Chicago: “Crimes on the South Side are usually narcotics-related or gang shootings, stuff like that,” he said. “Crimes on the Near North Side in more affluent neighborhoods that do involve a shooting or a stabbing are very typically in circumstances where alcohol takes effect, and is usually at clubs.”
Chicago Police officers in 2010. | Photo by Nicole Yeary via Flickr.
The most common type of violent crime that Farrell has experienced and dealt with has been theft-on-person, but has developed into a robbery. “If someone wants to make fast money to steal your phone, you resist, and get assaulted in the process, that’s now a robbery,” he said.
Outside of violent crime, Farrell noted that the most common form of crime is theft, specifically car-jacking.
“People park their cars and will mostly Uber and walk on-foot, which makes (their vehicles) an easy target,” Farrell said. This map created using Google MyMaps displays what Farrell responds to on a frequent basis:
Robberies reported in the last year according to the City of Chicago Data Portal. Mapping of Chicago provided by Google MyMaps, which can be found here. (Google MyMaps/Sam Menegat & Cory Moore)
Sam Waldorf, the associate director of the Old Town Merchants and Residents Association, was interviewed about criminal violence in the area. The association, according to Mr. Waldorf, “acts as a liaison between businesses and residents & city officials.”
Although Waldorf does recognize the predominance in violent criminal activity to be in the South and West Side, he agrees that it is not totally absent on the North side. These crimes “don’t show up as frequently,” he said. “But when they do, you hear about them in the news more than you would (if it were on the South or West Sides).”
Waldorf is referring to crimes such as theft, where carjacking seems to have become Old Town’s prime suspect, as well as burglary and the rare shooting/ stabbing, which are infinitely more rare and typically occur in the summer, when the Chicago crime rate is at an apex.
Waldorf believes that Old Town doesn’t pose a looming threat for exposure to violent crimes. When asked if he agreed that Old Town was a safe and protected neighborhood relative to most, he said simply: “Yes, I would agree with that.”
Sam Waldorf. | Photo by Sam Waldorf via LinkedIn.
High crime neighborhoods will sometimes seek to lobby for legislation to make the neighborhood safer, which could involve higher security measures. Albeit it won’t solve the problem in its entirety, it could help. The Old Town Merchants and Residents Association don’t see Old Town as particularly high in risk, although having extra security doesn’t go completely away.
“In regards to safety measures, we don’t lobby on behalf of any political legislation,” Waldorf reassuringly stated. “However, through our special service area, we do hire a private security firm to be on site three days a week during the day, and then Monday through Thursday at night, which acts as crowd management.”
The Old Town Private Security Team patrols Old Town during Friday and Saturday evenings from mid-March until New Year’s Eve, on Thursdays from May 1 to Labor Day Weekend, and daytime security three days a week under the same time frame.
The further extent of their private security can be found on the Old Town Merchants and Residents Association website, under the “Our Services” section.
Matt DeMateo is the executive director of New Life Centers of Chicagoland. Their mission statement is: “New Life Centers connect youth and young adults with Christ and Community through mentoring, education, sports and street outreach.” DeMateo works with 27 churches across the city of Chicago with 20 years of experience in violence prevention.
DeMateo spoke very highly of the Near North Side, he said: “there are only really pockets of violence in the Near North Side.” In comparison to the South Side in Demateo’s eyes the violence is “overlooked”.
The reasoning behind it for DeMateo is that there have been “100 shootings in an Austin neighborhood on the west side where in the 18th District there has been 2 in the past year.”
DeMateo has worked with individuals from the Near North Side. “I have personally mentored an individual who used to live in the Cabrini Green Row Houses,” DeMateo said. This location, according to DeMateo, used to be home to violence in the North Side of Chicago.
Matt DeMateo | Photo by the University of Chicago via Harris Public Policy.
DeMateo mentioned how there are different pockets of bad areas on the North Side as a whole. “There are only a few pockets of crime in locations like Rodgers Park and Albany Park where gun violence is present,” DeMateo mentioned.
Even though gun violence isn’t at an alarming rate, there is still a great amount of other violence that fills the area. “There are still instances of domestic violence and intimate partner violence in this area,” DeMateo concluded.
“Violent crimes occur all over Chicago,” Farrell adds. “And it comes in all different sorts and locations.” So, what is the best way to prevent feeling vulnerable to such violent crimes? His answer is simple: be aware of your surroundings.
“It doesn’t matter where you live, and it could be a utopia,” he said. “There’s always a victim of opportunity for the criminal to pounce on, because they see you as weak.” So don’t give them that opportunity.”