On Dec. 5, 2014, tragedy struck the Loyola community when graduate student Mutahir Rauf was shot and killed during an attempted armed robbery.
The 23-year-old was walking with his younger brother at the corner of Albion and Lakewood avenues — just two blocks from the Lake Shore Campus — when they were approached by two men. After one of the men displayed a gun, Rauf tried to grab the gun and was fatally shot in the head and chest.
A full two years later, Rauf’s murder remains unsolved.
But, Rauf’s case is not the only unsolved one, illustrating the challenges of a soaring homicide rate in Chicago and a shortage of police officers. As of Nov. 27, the city has had 693 homicides this year, according to Chicago Police Department (CPD) crime statistics, with a clearance rate of 21 percent.The clearance rate represents the number of crimes that are “cleared” — meaning charges are filed, or in some cases, police officials have identified a suspect and have evidence to support an arrest, but due to certain circumstances can’t arrest, charge or prosecute the suspect — divided by the total number of crimes reported.
Out of 432 homicides in Chicago in 2016, only 92 had been solved as of Aug. 16, according to police statistics gathered by the Chicago Tribune.
The national homicide clearance rate average is 61.5 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.
In the 49th Ward, which includes Rogers Park, Edgewater and West Ridge, six homicides have been reported in the past 12 months, according to the CPD CLEARmap crime summary.
The Alderman’s office said it did not know of the clearance rate for specifically the 49th Ward. Ald. Joe Moore of the 49 Ward said he thinks the unsolved homicide rate can be lowered if a stronger relationship between the community and police officers is formed.
“One of the challenges is that witnesses don’t cooperate based on fear of retaliation, a culture of not snitching and distrust of the police,” Moore stated in an email to The Phoenix. “We need to work on building community trust through a robust community police initiative.”
New York City has had 298 homicides in 2016 as of Nov. 20, according to New York City Police Department crime statistics. In 2015, out of its 352 homicides, New York City had a 68 percent clearance rate. Chicago’s population is about one-third of New York City’s.
Loyola assistant professor of criminal justice Robert Lombardo, who served in the Chicago Police Department for 35 years and spent five additional years as the Deputy Chief of the Cook County Sheriff’s Police Department, said Chicago’s clearance rate used to be higher.
“Historically, the clearance rate has always been around 70 to 80 percent,” he said. “The current rate is disgraceful.”
The city has seen its clearance rate continuously drop for the past 15 years. The homicide clearance rate in 1991 was 66.7 percent, according to CPD data. Out of a total of 928 murders that year, 619 were solved. In 2014, the clearance rate fell to 28.6 percent, and in 2015, out of the city’s 472 homicides, only 123 were solved, dropping the clearance rate to 26 percent.
“There is clearly something wrong here,” Lombardo said.
So, what’s the problem in Chicago?
Lombardo attributed Chicago’s low clearance rate to gang violence and a lack of resources throughout the CPD.
Lombardo said the gang problem in Chicago is more severe than it is in other cities, such as New York City. He also said there are more than 200 fewer detectives in the CPD than there were about five years ago.
Because the homicides are often rooted in gang violence, Lombardo said there is usually no relationship between the shooter and the victim, no witnesses and no motive, making the crimes harder to solve.
“The violence here is random and crimes are harder to solve,” he said. “Here, [homicides] are mostly gang-related shootings.”
There have been 3,289 shooting incidents reported in 2016 as of Nov. 27, compared to last year’s 2,205, making for an increase of 49 percent, according to CPD crime statistics.
During the past decade, Chicago has seen a rise in shootings but a decrease in CPD officers, according to Lombardo.
“Resources are critical,” Lombardo said. “The city claims they are working to fill vacancies that will help improve the system. They need to do more, but I am not sure what that is.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced in an October press release the addition of 25 police officers who will focus on community policing. A month earlier, Emanuel also introduced a public safety strategy which would add an additional 970 police officers to the force over the course of two years, according to a September press release.
Junior history and political science double major Lexi Kloiber was a first-year student when Rauf was killed.
“I was a little scared because I lived in Campion and it happened right by there,” she said. “I knew about Chicago violence, but it happened so suddenly and randomly, and there was nothing CPD or Campus Safety could do about it. I usually feel pretty safe on campus … but when I step off campus is when I begin to become more aware.”
Kloiber said Chicago’s clearance rate was shocking and it was unfortunate that Rauf’s case has not yet been solved.
“It sucks a lot, and we can’t really do anything about it,” said the 20-year-old. “It makes me sad.”