Home » Chain of explanation: Prevalent types of crime in Chicago from 2001 to 2023

Chain of explanation: Prevalent types of crime in Chicago from 2001 to 2023

If we talk about crime in America, the vast majority of the world will be aware of general things. We will discover it in Chicago…

1: Theft is the most dominant form of crime

Which crime statistically is more prevalent in America? And if it is at a leading edge, does it continue to do so? Aside from the inexcusable and especially easy legal access to guns, crime in America remains uncharted. According to the FBI, index crime in the United States includes violent crime and property crime. Larceny/Theft is the most common crime in the United States with more than 7 million thefts reported each year. Other common crimes also include burglary, car theft, aggravated assault, robbery, and property crime. By Statista, the national theft-theft rate in the United States reached 1,394.1 cases per 100,000 residents in 2021. This represents a decrease from the previous year when the theft-theft rate was 1,476.5 cases per 100,000. 

Theft can have a significant impact on people’s lives and businesses even at a level where you can’t avoid leaving the city where you work and live. In terms of prosperity, it has been reported in the Chicago Sun-Times, that theft is one of the reasons why businesses and people are leaving Chicago. As it is confirmed by the chart below, theft is the most common crime in Chicago, with over one million six hundred thousand cases, followed by battery, criminal damage, narcotics, etc.

2: An immersive perspective into Chicago’s crime map 

Chicago, known for its vibrant culture, towering skyline, and diverse neighborhoods, has long grappled with complex issues related to crime. Despite its rich history and cultural significance, the city has also gained notoriety for its high crime rates, particularly in certain neighborhoods. This stark dichotomy between Chicago’s remarkable attributes and its crime challenges underscores the urgency of understanding and addressing the root causes behind its persistent crime issues. Analyzing the crime rate in this city offers a distinctive perspective to explore the intricate interplay of socioeconomic factors. Chicago’s neighborhoods exhibit immense diversity, each with its own character, culture, and socio-economic profile, by exploring the crime rate in each area we gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by its residents and the areas that require targeted intervention and implement preventive measures that are tailored to the unique characteristics of different neighborhoods.

Immersing into the landscape of Chicago, according to its PDF it becomes apparent that a considerable number of crimes from their database occur on the streets, predominantly involving theft, battery, criminal damage, and assault. Additionally, incidents within apartments or residential areas, primarily related to theft and burglaries, are also prevalent based on the recorded data. As we realize, it is the standard of living that stimulates such crime.


Living in communities where theft has been the norm for generations, we should take into consideration the fact that Chicago typifies wealth inequality patterns for decades. Chicago’s debt per taxpayer remains the nation’s second highest at $41,900, driven by pension debt. As the graph below shows, there is an increase in the robbery rate continuously for five years, reaching a peak in 2015 and decreasing in 2020. This could be explained by the fact that in 2016, the number of hate crimes reached a five-year high with 6,121 hate crimes reported by law enforcement agencies nationally. Since Donald’s Trump surprise electoral victory, motivation for hate crime was being surged with the majority of victims describing these violent crimes as rape or other sexual assault, robbery, or assault. 

A significant majority of drug-related cases have resulted in immediate arrests throughout 2001 to 2021 .This consistent trend highlights the enforcement efforts and emphasis placed on combating drug-related offenses in Chicago. However, a subtle decline in the immediate arrest rate for drug-related cases is observable within the last three years. This decrease may be attributed, in part, to the far-reaching impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which have disrupted numerous aspects of societal functioning, such as the strain on law enforcement resources, shifts in priorities, and altered operating procedures, may have contributed to the observed decline in arrest rates for these crimes. The pandemic’s influence on the overall criminal justice system could have affected the capacity to make arrests, conduct investigations, and process cases efficiently. For all the other crimes analyzed, the arrest rates fall within the range of 15 to 40 percent. Notably, there has been a decline in these arrest rates over the past three years, dropping below the 15 percent threshold. It is reasonable to speculate that this decrease could also be attributed to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But beyond the effects of the pandemic measures, a decisive element in mapping the crime field in Chicago (and in general in America) is the year 2016. In that year, there were 44,438 drug reports for items seized by Chicago law enforcement with cannabis, heroin, and cocaine as the most seized substances. The increase in drug abuse is attributed to the opioid epidemic that has swept across the country. The opioid epidemic is a complex issue that has been driven by a number of factors including over-prescription of opioids, addiction, and poverty. The users belonged primarily to that social class contemptuously called hillbillies or white trash.

As one might assume, mass addiction has caused and continues to cause a number of economic and social problems: a sharp increase in unemployment; a sharp increase in homelessness; a sharp increase in divorce; a sharp increase in the number of parents deemed unfit – hence, a sharp increase in homicides, robberies, irresponsible gun violence; and, of course, a sharp increase in diseases related to the effects and side effects of these kinds of drugs.

3: Inequality and mistreatment of communities as a deeper understanding of crime occurrence

What we understand indirectly is that the problem lies in the racial and unequal mistreatment of neighborhoods in terms of local government. A noteworthy observation lies in the theft curve, which exhibits an intriguing increase in cases between 2015 and 2019. However, the theft curve experiences a significant peak in 2022, indicating the lack of political economy to advocate for better resources in disadvantaged neighborhoods/ communities. 

 With the arrival of the new mayor, Brandon Johnson, in 2023, the theft curve demonstrates a subsequent decrease. It is plausible to attribute this decline to the implementation of new policies, strategies, or initiatives under his leadership. His approach includes reversing under-investment in youth, mental health services, and victim support and aims to train and promote 200 new detectives, improve transit safety, and combat the influx of illegal guns. Johnson advocates for reopening mental health clinics, implementing crisis response teams, and addressing homelessness. He emphasizes police accountability through reforms, ending no-knock warrants, and publishing demographic data. Overall, Johnson’s plan aims to create a safer and more equitable Chicago by addressing crime and supporting the well-being of residents. Notably, there is an overall decreasing trend observed for all types of crime.

More info:  https://www.brandonforchicago.com/issues/public-safety 

In essence, a meaningful overhaul of local government can have a cascading effect on the well-being and healthy coexistence of the States in general. So can Chicago, or rather its good administration as brought about by the new mayor, be an example that will pave the way for other cities and therefore other states? Certainly, not everything will be fixed overnight. What is more important at this point is to map out in which areas there was and still is a high concentration of crime. West Garfield Park, North Lawn-dale, East Garfield Park, Washington Park, and West Inglewood are the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago based on FBI statistics.  According to Neighborhood Scout, the chance of being a victim of violent crime in Chicago is 1 in 115 and property crime is 1 in 42 . As we can see from the heatmap, although the wealth inequity pattern in Chicago has been well documented, wealth information for each local region has not been made widely available. By that means, neighborhoods with a low standard of living have a high rate of crime of all kinds. in terms of racial composition in Chicago, as in many US metropolitan areas, In Chicago, as in many US metropolitan areas, limited opportunities and structural barriers discriminately prevent households of color from earning wealth. 


5: A strong lesson 

So what do we learn from the Chicago case? It offers us not only a temporal but also a causal overview of the data that was already in front of us but that we have not been able to interpret coherently all these decades. The challenge lies in the local government and in the ongoing effort to improve continually mistreated and marginalized areas in order to balance the living field of America in general.  

9. Bibliography

Crime in the U.S.: Key questions answered | Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2020/11/20/facts-about-crime-in-the-u-s/. The 10 Most Common Crimes In The United States – Wester Law. https://westerlaw.org/the-10-most-common-crimes-in-the-united-states/.

Crime in the United States: Statistics & Facts | Statista. https://www.statista.com/topics/2153/crime-in-the-united-states/.

Brandon Johnson for Mayor of Chicago. (n.d.). https://www.brandonforchicago.com/issues/public-safety

In Chicago, Neighborhoods Have Stark Differences in Economic Opportunity. (2022, February 1). Urban Institute. https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/chicago-neighborhoods-have-stark-differences-economic-opportunity

Bureau of Justice Statistics. https://bjs.ojp.gov/

This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License .

Created and analyzed by:

  1. Milan Vermeiren, UCLL
  2. Yousef Ebrahimi, Nova IMS University
  3. Marianthi Variozidou, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
  4. Gianluca Alfano, University of Tuscia
  5. Iman El Fhal Faizou, University de Alcalá