Arrests in Chicago plummet to historic lows as crime rises and police admittedly pull back: 'No way'

Traffic stops and investigative stops have also dropped in Chicago

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Chicago police have arrested the fewest number of suspects in at least 20 years amid a crime wave that has continued raging in the city since 2020. 

"In the past, I might see a guy with a gun in his waistband, and I’d jump out and chase him," one decorated officer said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. "No way I’d do that now."

Police made arrests in 12% of crime cases in 2021, which is the lowest rate since 2001, when the data was first released, the Chicago-Sun Times analysis found. The number of arrests in Chicago peaked in 2005 when arrests were made in nearly 31% of reported crimes. That number has been on the decline since, the data shows. 

The number of traffic stops and tickets have also dropped, and the number of investigative stops fell by more than 50% between 2019 and 2021. Fewer crimes are also being reported to the police department by both residents and officers on beats, according to the analysis. 

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Chicago police attempted to pull over a carjacked vehicle on Monday night and traded gunfire with the suspects, shooting one and taking two others into custody.

Chicago police attempted to pull over a carjacked vehicle on Monday night and traded gunfire with the suspects, shooting one and taking two others into custody. (FOX32 Chicago WFLD)

Chicago has been rocked by crime in recent years. Homicides skyrocketed in the city in 2020, following a drop in violence for the three previous years. The Windy City recorded nearly 770 homicides in 2020, up 50% compared to 2019. Last year, the city broke a 25-year record when it surpassed 800 homicides, the Chicago Tribune reported. 

More of the same has unfolded with shootings since 2020. There were 2,151 shootings in the city in 2019, which increased to over 3,200 in 2020 and 3,561 shooting incidents in 2021. 

So far this year, shootings and killings for the first half of 2022 are down roughly 17% and 10%, respectively. However, the city is still on pace to break the 600-homicide benchmark by the end of the year, WTTW reported this month.

The decline in arrests comes after sweeping changes were made to how the Chicago P.D. patrols the streets, including restricting their vehicle pursuit policy, ending foot pursuits if a suspect runs from an officer or if someone commits a minor offense. Police were also told to stop making arrests over offenses such as possession of small amounts of marijuana, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. 

Police who spoke to the outlet, however, say they have pulled back from enforcing the law for other reasons. 

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One police officer told the outlet that some officers hesitate interacting with "criminals with guns" due to prosecutors having a tighter grip on approving felony charges against criminals. 

Attacks, such as the fatal shooting of Chicago police officer Ella French last year ,made other officers "step back and think: Who really cares about us at that point?" according to the unnamed police officer. 

"We can only support each other at the lowest ranks," the officer said. "And if that means going out there and not doing anything, then that means going out there and not doing anything."

President of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, John Catanzara, attributed police pulling back for a host of different reasons, including, the coronavirus, police coming under more scrutiny, and that making an arrest may not be worth their life or becoming a prominent news topic and villain, according to the Sun-Times. 

Officers with the Chicago Police Department are out on patrol in the city's lakefront area during Fourth of July weekend. The police union and city have reached tentative agreement on a new contract. 

Officers with the Chicago Police Department are out on patrol in the city's lakefront area during Fourth of July weekend. The police union and city have reached tentative agreement on a new contract.  (Chicago Police Department)

Police of various ranks also detailed they feel targeted after a consent decree required the city to alter policing practices after the Department of Justice found the police department engaged in civil rights violations, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

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The crime spike in Chicago since 2020 follows a national trend that showed murders spiking by about 30% in 2020 compared to 2019, marking the largest single-year increase in killings since the agency began tracking the crimes, according to FBI data.

Crime experts who previously spoke to Fox News Digital have pointed to the defund the police movement, the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns that upended society, along with the Ferguson effect. 

"Certainly, the protests and riots mid-2020 after the death of George Floyd followed a pattern of spiking violence that we've seen following past viral police incidents, such as the deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray. This pattern has been termed the ‘Ferguson Effect’: police pull back while violent crime spikes precipitously," Hannah Meyers, director of the policing and public safety initiative at the Manhattan Institute, told Fox News Digital earlier this year.

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One crime researcher who spoke to the Chicago-Sun Times reported similar findings, pointing to fallout from the pandemic for police pulling back, and speculating the riots and protests of 2020 could have caused crime to increase. 

Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown addresses reporters about a shooting. 

Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown addresses reporters about a shooting.  (Chicago Police Department)

"What comes through is that context matters, the context of this decline in police activity and arrests," crime researcher Deepak Premkumar told the outlet. "When there is a high-profile event, the community scrutiny increases, [police] activity drops."

"There are so many factors related to the pandemic that could have led police to pull back and for crimes to increase," Premkumar says. "But it’s entirely possible that the murder of George Floyd, the highest-profile [police killing] in U.S. history, played a role in increases in crime."

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As the police pull back in the city, the department has also been coping with staffing issues. Chicago P.D. saw the lowest number of staffers in March of this year after 300 personnel resigned or retired from the department and over a dozen more had stepped down.

Fox News Stephanie Pagones contributed to this article.