Chicago Public Housing Comes Down. Did it Decrease Violent Crime or Just Moved It Elsewhere?
Posted on April 10, 2012 by Be Chicagood
Chicago Magazine had an interesting article that explored Hanna Rosin’s fascinating and controversial article in The Atlantic, “American Murder Mystery,” which claims that tearing down public housing in high poverty neighborhoods didn’t decrease cime and poverty but rather pushed it out to the outer neighborhoods and suburbs. Rosin mainly explored Memphis but Chicago Magazine makes a compelling comparison that draws many similarities with Chicago.
Researchers around the country are seeing the same basic pattern: projects coming down in inner cities and crime pushing outward, in many cases destabilizing cities or their surrounding areas. Dennis Rosenbaum, a criminologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, found that after high-rises came down in Chicago, suburbs to the south and west—including formerly quiet ones—began to see spikes in crime; nearby Maywood’s murder rate has nearly doubled in the past two years.
We all know public housing such as Cabrini Green became a failed experiment that the city has tried to quietly sweep under the rug. Once, a promising idea for low income folks to find affordable housing has become a haven for drugs and gangs. The city quickly abandoned the projects and began looking for ways to deal with the soaring crime rates found in those areas. Their solution? Another experiment, this time building public housing that had mixed income tenants. Tenants from the former projects are now scattered across the city and suburbs. Now researchers are beginning to find that it may not be working at all. Their findings are a bit troubling. According to Chicago Magazine:
* Neighborhoods with a high density of relocated households (more than 14 per 1,000) have a violent and property crime rate 21 percent higher than it would have been without public-housing transformation.
* Neighborhoods with moderate density (seven to 14 per 1,000) have a rate 13 percent higher.
* Neighborhoods with low density (two to six per 1,000) have a rate five percent higher.
On the other hand, crime in the former public-housing neighborhoods declined precipitously between 2000 and 2008: violent crime by 60 percent, property crime by 49 percent, and gun crime by 70 percent.But spread out citywide across Chicago, the results are small: a one percent net decrease in violent crime, and a 0.3 percent decrease in property crime, although gun crime, a particular problem in public housing, declined by 4.4 percent, while accounting for the overall drop in crime across the city.
Crime has now been scattered across the city instead of being isolated in general areas, but you shouldn’t be quick to jump to conclusions and call the new housing experiments a failure. These spikes could be temporary. With the current economy and housing market conditions, people aren’t just fleeing these neighborhoods that are experiencing a spike in crimes but are staying put, meaning they will fight for their community and homes. A development of a social infrastructure in these neighborhoods would hopefully take place resulting in safer neighborhoods and squeezing crime out.
Websites like Everyblock, twitter, and ClearMaps are being utilized extensively by Chicagoans as they are using social media for social good. Social media sites are connecting neighbors of a community like never before allowing them to relay information and post crime watch information quickly that can be viewed easily by others. It has also helped community members get together to address needs and raise funds for certain infrastructure the neighborhood desperately needs. With so many tools and resources at their disposal, Chicagoans can work together efficiently and more effectively for their neighborhoods. I guess we will have to wait see how Chicagoans will respond.