Closer Look

Crime Solve Rates Low Around Lake Shore Campus

Courtesy of Tony WebsterShots were fired near Water Tower Place Friday night.

Students unlucky enough to be stuck up at gunpoint late at night near Lake Shore Campus probably won’t see the crook get caught. That’s because the percentage of violent crimes solved by the Chicago Police Department (CPD) around campus is alarmingly low.

Violent crime remains a serious problem near Loyola, and The PHOENIX reported that nearly half of the violent crime incidents Loyola Campus Safety claimed it turned over to CPD under the label “handled by another jurisdiction” over five years were unable to be located in the department’s records.

However, many of the crimes CPD does receive from Campus Safety might still remain unsolved, according to solve rate data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request analyzed by The PHOENIX.

CPD’s clearance rate tracks which crimes are solved and which remain open. There are several classifications a crime incident can fall under: Open or suspended means a crime has yet to be solved or resolved, and cleared or exceptionally cleared indicates a case is considered closed.

Cleared status can range anywhere from a suspect being arrested and charged with a crime to a suspect ending up dead.

The percentage of violent crimes solved by CPD within the 24th and 20th police districts — which include Rogers Park and Edgewater — is comparably low to the clearance rates citywide. The Chicago Sun-Times found low clearance rates in the past for homicides and non-fatal shootings citywide, but The PHOENIX centered its analysis on the Loyola area.

The numbers The PHOENIX examined run from Jan. 1, 2015 to Nov. 21, 2017, and include four categories of violent crime: homicide, criminal sexual assault, armed or strong-armed robbery and aggravated battery or assault.

Murders have an abysmally low solve rate. Out of the 40 homicides within Rogers Park and Edgewater in the last three years, only 15 are considered closed.

The 2014 fatal shooting of Loyola graduate student Mutahir Rauf on Albion Avenue near campus is still under investigation, according to CPD News Affairs. The October 2017 fatal shooting of local teacher Cynthia Trevillion off the Morse Red Line stop also remains unsolved.

Arthur Lurigio, a Loyola psychology professor who’s studied clearance rates, said he thinks two factors contribute to Chicago’s low solve rate: the prevalence of stranger-on-stranger crime and the dwindling number of police detectives.

“Homicides used to be the crime that was most easily solved because homicides involved people who knew each other,” Lurigio said. “Increasingly, homicides occur when the perpetrator and the victim don’t know each other.”

In the first 11 months of 2017, detectives in Area North, where the Lake Shore Campus is located, closed 22 percent of murder cases — two out of nine, The Phoenix found. That number is slightly higher than the 17.5 percent citywide homicide solve rate for 2017 the Chicago Sun-Times found in an investigation.

The Murder Accountability Project, which tracks homicide clearance rates according to FBI data, shows Chicago had a regular homicide clearance rate of 70-80 percent in the 1960s and 1970s.

Lurigio said more police detectives are needed to solve violent crime incidents.

“Cops on the street do not solve crimes,” Lurigio said. “They come and respond to a homicide. They’re at the scene … But there’s homicide investigators that become the solvents.”

CPD employs 900 detectives citywide, including 270 new ones, according to CPD communications director Frank Giancamilli.

In 2008, CPD employed more than 1,200 detectives, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Other types of violent crime face similarly low clearance. Armed and strong-armed robberies have a clearance rate of only 19.3 percent for the last three years. In the first 11 months of 2017, police cleared only 64 of 394 robberies.

For example, Loyola students were notified by Campus Safety of an early morning strong-armed robbery April 22 last year. An offender threatened a student with an unseen gun and coerced the student into withdrawing money from an ATM on North Sheridan Road, The PHOENIX reported. This case remains unsolved, according to CPD News Affairs.

Lurigio said robberies and other violent crime increasingly occur quickly and in public, which he said can leave the victims with little information to give police.

Criminal sexual assault cases had a solve rate of 26.8 percent in the area between January 2015 and November 2017. One instance of a sexual assault The PHOENIX reported, which occurred off campus around 2 a.m. Sept. 24, 2016 on North Kenmore Avenue, was solved, according to CPD.

But many more sexual assault cases might not reach police. During the 2016-17 academic year, reports of gender-based misconduct more than doubled from the previous year, according to Loyola’s Title IX Office, which often handles these reports internally.

Aggravated assaults and batteries, which are grouped together by CPD, had a solve rate just under 40 percent between January 2015 and November 2017. In 2017, police cleared 162 out of 342 incidents. This was the highest violent crime solve rate for the data The Phoenix examined.

In September 2016, CPD arrested an individual accused of an aggravated battery against a Loyola student on North Winthrop Avenue. The student reported she was walking home near Seattle Residence Hall days earlier when she was groped by two men, allegedly including 22-year-old Soroush Aflaki.

Aflaki was arrested and charged, therefore CPD considers the case solved.

Still, many more crimes near campus remain unsolved. A battery Feb. 26, 2016 in the 1200 block of West Arthur Avenue remains unsolved, in addition to an armed robbery that occurred in broad daylight April 26, 2016 in the 1300 block of West North Shore Avenue, CPD said.

Lurigio said, while Chicago suffers from an egregiously low clearance rate for murders and other violent crime, the clearance rate near Loyola seems better than other parts of the city, where community relations between citizens and police aren’t as cordial.

“Chicago is violent in just a few places,” Lurigio said. “The city overall is safe … It’s four or five different police districts that get the bulk.”

CPD Sgt. Michael Malinowski said good community relations are an essential part of solving crimes.

“Detectives work with community members,” Malinowksi said. “They’re working with these community members that’ve had something terrible happen to them.”

CPD said in a statement to The PHOENIX it’s stepped up its efforts to foster better relations between officers and locals in the hopes of solving more crimes.

Malinowski said CPD often relies on citizens for the most credible leads.

“There’s only so many police officers. There’s only so many police detectives,” Malinowski said. “[But] we’re a part of and empowered by the community … when the detectives come around, now it’s easy for these community members to talk to them.”

Additionally, it makes sense that solve rates for 2015 would be higher than 2017 because police have had more time to investigate and close cases, a CPD spokesperson said.

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