Wednesday, March 13, 2013

In A City With A Murder Problem Why Are Small Complaints At The Top?

Chicago Police have been struggling to contain a crime problem in many parts of their city. Understandably, Chicago PD has been under a lot of pressure to get a handle on the problem and make the community a safer place. The Chicago Tribune is reporting that CPD's Superintendent Garry McCarthy is bringing a crime fighting strategy to Chicago that he hopes will help. 
"Fixing the little things prevents the bigger things," McCarthy said during a news conference at the Harrison district station. He has long been an advocate of the "broken windows" approach — the idea that eradicating public drunkenness and other signposts of community decay is crucial to making neighborhoods safer.

The superintendent said an ordinance would be proposed to the City Council to allow police to arrest those who fail to pay tickets for public urination, public consumption of alcohol and gambling, "the three top complaints" from residents.

Via The Chicago Tribune
What I find interesting but probably not all what unusual is that McCarthy indicates that the "three top complaints" from residents are "public urination, public consumption of alcohol and gambling". I know that to many outside law enforcement, the idea that these are the top complaints while they are setting records for the numbers of murders seems a bit crazy. But it's been my experience that often times the largest and most vocal complaints are about quality of life issues and not major crimes.

Yet while these quality of life issues seem minor, they are a big deal to those experiencing them. If your agency is responsive to these issues, then you will begin to build the public trust in your department and that trust will then help you to tackle some of the larger crime problems in the community. Fixing these quality of life issues can also improve the public perception of safety in a community.

The Problem Oriented Policing Center has a great set of POP Guides that outline strategies to deal with many types of crime problems, including quality of life issues like Chronic Public Inebriation and Abandoned Buildings or Lots. Their POP Guides are a great resource and may help you to develop a strategy to deal with a crime problem.

How does your agency handle quality of life issues? Do you think that "broken windows policing" can help CPD turn things around in Chicago?


  1. Good comment Scott. My agency looks at top calls for service over multi-years. Unlocking cars is one of the top 3 over the last 8 years. It's a public service we provide and while some may think it is a waste of time, we see it as a quality of life and trust building tactic.
    Thanks again.

  2. What mystifies me is that "gambling" somehow tops the list of community concerns. I've literally never heard anyone complain about "all that gambling going on" in 20 years in policing. Granted, Chicago might have some unique problem, but I can't help but wonder if the assessment of the "top three complaints" is really based on hard data.

  3. Chris, I guess it must be the community. We get gambling complaints on occasion so they aren't unusual to us. However, the top of our list is usually loud music or traffic issues.


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