Are We Suburbanizing Chicago’s Problems?

CHICAGO — The front page of Sunday’s and today’s Chicago Tribune recounts the dysfunction that is government in suburban Harvey, Illinois – a scandal-ridden police force that might do something when there’s a serious crime, terrorized residents dealing with violence on a scale that matches the most dangerous of Chicago neighborhoods, and equally sketchy political leadership.

Despite high crime levels, “The arrest rate has been lower than that of any other Chicagoland community battling significant violent crime, including Chicago’s most troubled neighborhoods,” says the Tribune.

“It’s a suburb that commissioned an audit that ripped its Police Department’s detective work, and then promoted the head of the detective bureau. It’s a community where officers can keep their guns and badges despite questionable conduct highlighted in scandal after scandal.

“Harvey’s leaders are regularly subpoenaed to testify in lawsuits accusing the department of wrongdoing. Some are filed by officers themselves, who allege misconduct by their bosses or complain of mistreatment. The lawsuits drain millions of dollars from the pockets of taxpayers in one of the Chicago area’s poorest communities.”

But is this a Harvey problem, or a reflection of trends seen nationally and internationally?

Crime rates in cities as varied as San Francisco, New York, Paris and Chicago – with radically different policing strategies, police staffing rates and justice systems — are all down.  But a big part of that may just be a matter of where you draw municipal boundaries.

Besides the page one piece on Harvey, the Business Section of Sunday’s Tribune recounted stories of a boomlet in downtown Chicago residential rental properties.  Penthouse properties, some in the footprint of the old Cabrini Green public housing project – torn down after a relentless, years’ long Tribune campaign about violence in the project – are going for nearly $8000 a month.

So as crime follows poor people out of gentrified city cores into suburbs like Harvey, have we solved the problem, or simply suburbanized it?


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