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Jewish World Review Dec. 24, 2001 /9 Teves 5762

Sam Schulman

Sam Schulman
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Consumer Reports

Mayor Daley to Chicagoans: "Trust me. You're Better Off Dead" --
I loathe the Yankees, even though I live in New York, because they have beaten so many White Sox teams over the year, and as a native south side Chicagoan I can't forgive them. But Chicago has beaten New York in murders for two of the last four years. In fact, my home town will have more murders than any city in America - despite that it is only, at best, the third-largest city, a third the size of New York.

What's more, although the city's murder count has declined over the past decade, from over 900 a year to 648 in 2001, the decline is tiny. In the Dinkins years, New York had over 2,400 killings - now it has a quarter as many. If Chicago had been as efficient in fighting crime as New York, about 400 people each year would be alive. And those spared would likely be the poorest and most powerless in society.

What's most astonishing about this fact is that the great and good of Chicago are proud of it. When asked whether an approach more like Mayor Giuliani's might work - based on zero tolerance of minor crimes - Chicagoans throw up their hands in horror.

You see, it might hurt some feelings.

A criminologist at Northwestern, Wesley Skogan, told the Chicago Tribune that 'city and civic leaders wouldn't risk the downside of a crackdown." And the Chief of Staff of the Chicago police told the paper the same thing. "A zero tolerance crackdown, especially in high crime areas, would ruin relationships the department has struggled to build with the public."

In other words, it's better to have dead members of the public- hundreds and hundreds of them - then risk political unpopularity.

Captain Needham, the police chief of staff, tries to explain it to us crude New Yorkers. "[Crime statistics] were the sole judge of whether or not New York was succeeding as a police department," Needham said. "We've never done that in Chicago. We believe there is this whole other aspect of police work that doesn't lend itself to ready statistical analysis--how do we relate with a diverse population and what does the general public think of the job we're doing."

Dead people don't respond to opinion polls.

It's not as if Mayor Daley had anything to risk - unlike Mayor Giuliani, who won his first term by a whisker. It's simply that he and the Chicago elite haven't the courage to act to save the weakest members of his community by defending them.

I'm glad Mayor Daley and Captain Needham are pleased with the state of their relationship with a diverse population. I can't stop thinking of the 400 dead each year in Chicago, dead because police would prefer to look the other way. Think of their friends and family - and think, too, of the 400 murderers, whose lives are ruined just as much, because they were not put in jail because of car theft or drug dealing - crimes which hurt poor neighborhoods for the most part.

Heather MacDonald, writing in the City Journal, long ago demolished the notion that New York cops are brutal, unconcerned with the community, or ubiquitous. What ought to be disturbing to Chicagoans is how complacently are willing to trade the citizens' safety for their own self-satisfaction.

Sam Schulman Archives

JWR contributor Sam Schulman is a New York writer whose work appears in New York Press, the Spectator (London), and elsewhere, and was formerly publisher of Wigwag and a professor of English at Boston University.You may contact him by clicking here.


© 2000 by Sam Schulman