Crime hasn’t been this bad in Chicago since 1996. Is it about to get worse?

neal kharawala xxa8ptuld1y unsplash
Photo by Neal Kharawala on Unsplash.

There are Obama-era signs cropping up again everywhere, and the news they bear isn’t exactly music to the ears of the working class.

Again there is much talk of an “economic recovery” in the press, pushed relentlessly by a strictly homogenized group of information gatekeepers who really want that to be true.

Again, on the ground in poorer communities, there aren’t as many signs of an “economic recovery” as there should be, considering the robustly rosy outlook being touted in the press.

Gas is up over $7 in California; in most places it is half that, though still twice as high as it was at this time last year. Homes in California now cost double the national average as well.

Prices are up in the grocery store, the hardware store; for wholesalers and retailers. More price hikes are coming, thanks in part to supply line issues and the rising cost of petroleum.

It is much more than a “crisis of undelivered treadmills,” as White House Spokesperson Jen Psaki recently characterized the shortages, shipping delays, backlogs and supply chain issues. Nor does it appear to be transitory.

The global, petroleum-driven supply chain problems aren’t going away anytime soon. President Joe Biden admitted during his Town Hall this week that the White House isn’t planning any measures likely to bring the price of oil down anytime soon.

Americans are staring down the barrel of a long, expensive winter. Heating bills are expected to go up everywhere. Though most U.S. electricity is generated via natural gas, electricity-powered households will see the most modest increases at around 13%. Propane users will see the largest increase of 54%. That propane users happen to be straddling the poverty line won’t make these higher prices easier to bear.

The cumulation of all these added expenses will be enough to knock some families down the socioeconomic ladder a few rungs.

Economically disadvantaged areas have even bigger problems as well.

Crime, along with inflation, has skyrocketed over the past year. According to FBI statistics, the murder rate is up 30%.

Violent and property crime is a minor inconvenience for wealthy people. They live in safe, well-patrolled, gated communities under the perpetually watchful eye of 24-hour security companies.

People in poorer neighborhoods can’t afford such luxuries and so must rely on municipal police departments, however imperfect.

Because the rise in crime hasn’t impacted the wealthy and middle class as much as it has impacted the working class, it is no surprise that support for defunding police departments is split right down the middle of the Democratic Party.

Working-class Democrats from the poorer end of the socioeconomic spectrum, of all descriptions, who live and work in areas beset by rising crime- who send their children to the local public school, who take public transportation to work- want more policing in their neighborhoods, not less. They do not support defunding the police.

Among more elite members of the Democratic Party, from Manhattan to Hollywood, College Campuses to SoHo lofts, support for defunding the police remains high. Well, it would. Elites were forced to watch George Floyd murdered in cold blood only last May along with everyone else.

They’ve never seen anything so terrible- not before or since. It is the closest many elites have ever, or will ever, come to experiencing personal violence.

In the poorer neighborhoods of Chicago it is another story. George Floyd died over a year ago: 791 have been murdered in Chicago over the past 12 months alone. And not by Chicago police officers. Mothers, fathers, brothers, innocent children have been gunned down. Heartbroken parents, relatives, church members, faith communities, business leaders, and activists have been raising the hewn cry for months.

Even the Mayor of Chicago herself has pled with the local prosecutor to pursue charges against the most recent perpetrators of a shoot-out on a crowded city street which killed one person and wounded several others.

The last bastion of cover for politicians like Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago and Bill De Blasio of New York City is melting away like snow. Until recently, members of the political leadership class in these cities was still able to claim that crime in their cities remains down, statistically speaking…in comparison to the bad old days of the mid-1990’s.

Now, however, that is no longer true: Chicago hasn’t experienced this much violence since 1996- and the year isn’t over yet by a long shot.

Into every torrential down pour, a little extra rain must fall. Things in Chicago may soon go from bad to worse.

Into this melee of rising crime and violence on Chicago streets, against the tide of an exodus of businesses and residents fleeing the growing problem, as the storefronts of Chicago’s once Magnificent Mile are closed one by one, vaccine mandates have fallen.

Part of the twin problems of rising prices and rising crime is a serious labor crisis. For months, a year, businesses that which managed to hang on through the past 18 months haven’t been able to find enough employees to run their operations.

Companies have offered everything from generous signing bonuses, to free Apple phones, to stock options in an attempt to woo as many employees as possible. And yet from restaurant staff members, to shelf stockers, to truck drivers to factory workers, good help remains harder to find than ever.

Members of corporate are working cash registers.

There are plenty of industries which can afford to lose a significant percentage of their workforce over vaccine mandates. There are plenty of people- mostly Democrats- who are fine with anyone who won’t get vaccinated losing their job. These same Democrats tend to have one response to complaints about labor shortages from the business community: “Pay more.”

There are certainly companies and industries which can afford to and should do just that. There are however other industries which can little afford to lose a single worker, let alone 20%-30% of its workforce; nor are they able to easily replace lost workers. One industry in particular is already on the brink.

Police officers.

In major cities across the nation, police officer morale has never been lower. Recruitment of new officers is in so much trouble, popular actor Morgan Freeman is currently lending his star power to recruit new officer trainees.

Many police department budgets, slashed in the wake of the death of George Floyd, have since been refunded and funded again after a spike in violent crime. Other places are pressing forward, though fewer and fewer Democrats are willing to say they support now, or ever did support, defunding the police.

But funded or defunded, police officers abandoned the force in droves after June 2020. Officers near retirement retired, others transferred to smaller areas for lower salaries and easier jobs with more community support. Still others pursued more lucrative, and less dangerous, positions with private security firms.

They left and they aren’t coming back.

With these latest vaccine mandates, the labor shortage plaguing police departments across the nation will soon be pushed to the breaking point.

It won’t be wealthy communities who bear the brunt of this crisis. When there are even fewer cops on Chicago streets than ever, it will be working-class people in poorer neighborhoods who have their cars, their homes, their places of work, their schools and community centers broken into, vandalized, looted and their personal safety, and indeed their very lives and the lives of those they love, threatened.

Recruiting new officers is nice and everything- if it was going well, which it isn’t- but there is a reason companies, including municipal police departments, work so hard to retain their employees.

Replacing employees is expensive. It takes time and hurts viability. It takes resources, energy and focus away from other areas. Education, on-the-job training takes a huge investment. Getting new officers up to speed takes time as well.

It is time some communities, like those in Chicago, just don’t have.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)