Judging from comments posted on Evanston Now this week, there’s been a lot of community outrage about the daylight gun battle Tuesday across from Evanston Township High School.

That, and the slashing of a motorist during a robbery or carjacking attempt near the school, have people on edge.

In many ways the outrage is a good thing. We shouldn’t get complacent about violence in our community.

But a number of readers have said there is a “growing problem” with violence in Evanston. And it’s helpful to test that claim against the facts.

The numbers suggest the claim is only accurate if you are pretty selective about the periods you compare.

Comparing the latest available figures, through the end of May, violent crimes in Evanston that will be reported to the FBI are essentially unchanged from the same period last year — totalling 86 last year and 85 this year.

No murders during the period either year. Four rapes in 2012. None so far this year. Robberies up by 1, Aggravated battery and assaults up by 2.

Meanwhile reportable categories of non-violent crime are down 7.4 percent.

June, of course, is only half over, and it could turn out to be a rough month. But then there are frequently short-term spurts in crime.

A search for “shots heard” reports on Evanston Now’s crime map — which is based on daily crime bulletin incidents listed by Evanston police — determined that there were 35 this year in the period through yesterday, and the exact same number for the same period last year.

Violent crime was up last year in Evanston. There were 235 violent crime incidents reportable to the FBI in 2012 compared to 180 in 2011. But the longer-term trend shows a big reduction, from 594 violent crime incidents back in 1995.

Meanwhile, one suspect has been charged in the shooting incident, but police were unable to develop enough evidence to charge the other person they think was involved. And police are still looking for the assailant in the slashing attack.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Interesting start

    This is an interesting start, but I'd be interested to see how things stack up over the last 5, 10, 15, even 20 years.  The statements about "growing problems" seem to be taking a longer view of the situation than just the past 12 months, at least among my circles.  

    1. The data are at hand

      Hi Malik,

      Did you look at the second chart in the story?

      That tracks violent crime in the city going back to 1995 …17 years ago.

      Additional detail in this story, a link to which was also in the story above.

      — Bill

  2. Three young men were shot to death near ETHS in 2012

    Were there not three shooting deaths in Evanston last year?  Did we forget about Justin Murray, Javar Bamberg and 14 year old Dajae Coleman who was shot by a known gangbanger on Church Street not far from the high school? Murray and Bamberg's shooting deaths were in the Fifth Ward also not far from the high school.

    Bill, you ran a story in January with stats, indicating there is only a 20 percent clearance in Evanston shootings.  "Evanston police say 15 people were shot and wounded in Evanston over the past two years — and in only three of those cases has someone been charged with the crime."

    I think the facts show violent crime in Evanston is on the rise and a good chance of not getting caught. Everybody in my circle is now talking about crime at and near the high school.

    Where is the mayor? Where is the outrage? JSB has it right.

    1. Never let the facts get in the way …

      Hi Al,

      Yes, there were three homicides in Evanston in 2012. Also three in 2011. But there were 5 in 2010 ,,, 1 in 2009, 2 in 2008, and so forth.

      You can argue overall violent crime is up if you compare 2012 with 2011.

      You can argue it is down if you compare 2012 with any year before 2010.

      You can argue it is unchanged if you compare the first five months of this year with the first five months of last year.

      You want to be fearful? Choose the comparisons that reinforce your fear.

      — Bill

    2. Counterinsurgency Cops: Military tactics fight street crime

      This should drive crazy those who think Evanston is the garden of Eden.

      60 Minutes recently had a show about a former conterinsurgency soldier now a cop in Springfield MA.

      It sounds like Springfield is much more violent than Evanston, but Evanston might learn something about breaking the gangs.  Beside the changes made within the police department, they used Harvard engineering student [substitute NU students] to map not only the crime areas but the gang/crime people and break the chains that link them and crime—reminds me of episodes of 'Num3rs.'

      Evanston needs some shock treatment and this might help.

      Of course those who live in a Never Never land and those who don't want NU to have anything to do with the city, will fight anything that gets to the issue.

  3. Emotion vs. facts

    Thanks for report Bill. I agree with you that the perception of growing crime is not based on a comprehensive review of facts.  Isn't this a national story as well?  Over the past generation fear of crime has gone up while actual crime, and violent crime especially, has gone way down on a national and regional basis.

    Some say we are conditioned to see patterns even when there are none. A couple of reports of violent incidents and it is human nature to see a trend.

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