Violent crime surges 26% at Chicago Public Schools, arrests hit record low

Violent crime surges 26% at Chicago Public Schools, arrests hit record low

Chicago Public Schools saw violent crime increase 26% in 2023 and arrests hit a record low of 8%. Now thanks to pressure from the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Brandon Johnson, police are being removed from schools.

Violent crimes were up 26% last year in Chicago Public Schools – hitting the total seen before the pandemic combined with Chicago Teachers Union actions put students out of classes for over a year.

But another development in 2023 is especially disturbing because CTU and Mayor Brandon Johnson, an ex-CTU employee, succeeding in getting the last members of the Chicago Police Department booted from the few schools where they remained. With 224 violent crimes in schools last year, only 18 arrests were made – a record low rate.

There were arrests in just 8% of violent crimes at schools last year – 163 schools saw violence, and 145 of them failed to see an arrest. But when every Chicago public high school had two police officers in 2009, the arrest rate was 43% for violent acts.

Research from the Brooking Institute shows the introduction of school resource officers in schools decreases violent offenses by 30%.

The report also found the introduction of police officers tends to increase reported crimes in schools, particularly the number of gun-related offenses. The presence of officers was also found to increase the rates of student arrests, suspensions and expulsions.

The Chicago Board of Education voted in February to remove police from city schools beginning next school year – a move pushed by CTU and their former lobbyist, Johnson, who picked nearly the entire board.

Of the district’s 634 schools, 39 still have at least one resource officer. Now those schools are being forced to remove their police officers by the start of the next academic year, regardless of whether the local school leaders believe officers are improving safety.

Prior to the decision, local school councils maintained the power to vote on whether to keep resource officers for themselves under rules established by former Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

She argued the decision was best left to local school councils that are more in tune with the needs of their own schools. Lightfoot’s words were echoed by multiple principals, who cited the positive impacts school resource officers were having in their buildings.

Instead of removing police officers unilaterally, the city and district school board should revamp the school police officer program in a way that uses officers more effectively. It should leave the police decision up to local school councils.

The city could create a dedicated school resource officer program, with officers carefully selected as those best-suited for interacting with students and faculty. The specially trained unit’s officers would not only serve as first responders in school emergencies but also act as liaisons between the police department and schools.

The program could train officers to respond to incidents involving any inappropriate behavior on the part of adults within and outside the schools, including domestic violence incidents, bullying, gang intimidation, and other health and safety needs.

Treating every school the same is not a strategy, it is an abdication of responsibility that exposes children to danger.

Details about violence in Chicago schools

Chicago Police data shows 224 violent crimes in Chicago Public Schools buildings or on campus grounds last year. Murder, robbery, human trafficking, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and sexual assault are counted as violent crimes.

Cases included students and teachers being beaten, threatened with knives

and guns, robbed of their belongings and sexually exploited. Attacks with weapons and rapes have become a greater share of the crimes.

The leading violent crimes reported every year were aggravated batteries, in which the attacker knowingly caused serious bodily harm to the victim, used a deadly weapon to commit the act or harmed a protected employee such as a teacher. There were 98 aggravated batteries in 2023.

Second-most common each year were aggravated assaults, involving the threat of violence against individuals while using a deadly weapon or the threat of violence against a protected employee or vulnerable victim. There were 75 aggravated assaults last year.

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