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Here's what's happening with crime in Chicago in 2023

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Chicago has seen a lot of headlines around crime in the aftermath of the pandemic. From robbery sprees to smash-and-grabs at stores, it's hard to escape the feeling that crime is high. 

Some of those feelings can be backed up by data, but the actual story is littered with nuances. 

Some crimes dropped during the pandemic with fewer people out in public, such as robberies and thefts, while other crimes such as shootings and homicides shot up. As the pandemic waned, and people returned to public life, most crimes rose to pre-COVID levels, especially those involving robberies and motor vehicle thefts. 

Retail thefts have bounced back after pandemic low, but the types of stores getting hit have changed.  And while Chicago has had far worse years with robberies, the number of robberies with guns has increased and the neighborhoods experiencing the robberies have shifted. Burglaries have fallen to historic lows, while some storefronts get smashed in.

All this is happening at the same time Chicago and the broader U.S. have taken an introspective look at crime and policing.

CBS Chicago took a dive into all the reported crimes in the city to give a sense of what's going on in the city this year. 

Here's what we've found. 

Violent Crime

Chicago's violent crime rate has been slowly rising since 2019, after steady declines from a high in 2016. 

There were nearly 27,700 violent crimes reported in the city so far this year, levels not seen since 2011, according to a CBS Chicago analysis of police data from Jan.1 through Dec.11. 

This is thanks in part to increases in robberies and aggravated assaults. Shootings and homicides have decreased substantially from highs during the pandemic, although they remain at levels higher than most of the early 2000s.

The traditional way to measure violent crime was the nearly century-old method used by the FBI called the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR), which categorized incidents of crime and ranked them by severity. Violent crime consists of homicides, aggravated assaults, batteries, rapes, and  robberies. The FBI recently moved onto a new system, but Chicago's public crime data still uses this system as well as another system used for Illinois police agencies. 


So far this year, Chicago has recorded more than 600 homicides, according to a CBS Chicago analysis of police data. 

Chicago's homicides dropped about 25% from a pandemic of about 800 during the same time period in 2021. And while that's welcome news for residents and public safety officials, it's bittersweet in that the levels are still higher than pre-pandemic levels of about 500 in 2019, and well above Chicago's historic low of about 430 in 2013. 

Chicago has had much worse: recording more than 900 homicides in 1992, according to an analysis of homicide data from the city's violence reduction dashboard


Shootings in Chicago have also ebbed from a pandemic high, with more than 2,800 shooting victims so far this year, according to city data. Nearly 20% of this year's shootings were fatal. That number is high, but 34% lower than the pandemic high of about 4,300 shooting victims in 2021. 

Readily available data specific to victims of gun crimes date only as far back as 2010, and records 2013 as the year with the fewest shooting victims with nearly 2,200 people shot.


Chicago has been plagued by a rash of serial robbery sprees this year, with robbery crews hitting multiple victims in a night – especially on the city's Northwest Side. 

So far, Chicago has recorded more than 10,400 robberies this year, according to CBS Chicago analysis of police crime data. That's a 24% increase from the same time last year, however that figure carries an asterisk, and here's why.

The number of robberies dropped to historic lows in 2019 and that continued into the pandemic, with 7,300 robberies that same period in 2021 and almost 7,500 in 2020, likely a result of fewer people being in public amid stay-at-home orders. 

As residents returned to offices, schools and public life, robberies bounced back higher than pre-pandemic levels not seen since 2017. What's more, the geography of robberies shifted to communities on the Northwest and Southwest sides.

Communities like Hermosa, which had 30 reported robberies through December of 2019, had  more than 140 so far this year – a 380% increase. The Lower West Side went from 59 to 251 robberies in that same time period, a 325% increase.

Many of the robberies have resulted with no arrests, contributing to a narrative that these crimes are continuing with little to no consequences for perpetrators.  

At the same time, the number of carjackings, a subset of robberies, – has started to decline after spiking during the pandemic to an all-time high of more than 1,800 carjackings in 2021. 

The number of carjackings has ebbed to about 1,200 incidents so far this year, likely in part to the rise of car thefts involving Kias and Hyundais. Still, the number of carjackings remains at elevated levels and far away from a historic low of about 300 incidents in 2014.

Motor vehicle thefts

So far this year, there were nearly 28,000 motor vehicle thefts in Chicago, the most car thefts in two decades. This is largely due to thieves exploiting a vulnerability on certain models of Kias and Hyundais.

CBS Chicago first reported on this trend last year, which saw vehicle thefts soar in October, and thefts have remained at elevated levels since. Kias and Hyundais collectively accounted for nearly 40% of all stolen cars in Chicago last year.

Chicago is not alone as the trend became a national crisis, affecting major cities such as New York, Denver, and others.

The last time Chicago saw car thefts this high was in the '90s, when 30,400 cars were reported stolen in 1999, according to archived police reports.

Kia issued software updates in March to help combat the thefts, but it's unclear what effect, if any, that had. More than a dozen attorneys general urged the federal government to recall the cars this year. 

In Illinois, state and local officials have spooled up task forces to help combat the thefts, but most cases seldom result in an arrest, and worse: fewer owners are recovering their vehicles, according to another CBS Chicago investigation.

Kia and Hyundai settled a class action lawsuit for $200 million in May, compensating owners up to $6,125 for the total loss of a vehicle and up to $3,375 for damage to the vehicle and personal property.

Making things worse, many of the city's stolen cars were used in the commission of robberies, according to an analysis of police data involving suspect vehicles. 

That data, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, shows that through August of this year, there were 77 Kias and 70 Hyundais reportedly used during robberies, while there were only sixKias and 26 Hyundais used in 2019.


There were roughly 53,600 reported property thefts so far this year, slightly higher than the same time last year, which recorded 52,200 thefts. This number includes retail thefts, thefts from businesses, homes, and public buildings. It does not include robberies, burglaries, or motor vehicle thefts.

Property thefts bounced back from pandemic lows, when many non-essential businesses were closed, they remain lower than pre-pandemic levels of 59,100 thefts during the same period in 2019.

Retail thefts 

Amid widespread coverage of organized retail thefts, there were only 9,000 retail thefts reported in Chicago so far this year, slightly higher than the 8,300 reported during the same time last year, but lower than the almost 10,200 reported in 2019. 

Retail thefts plunged during the pandemic, when many non-essential stores were closed. 

The Chicago Police Department doesn't have a category for thefts carried out in groups, making it hard to separate organized retail theft from thefts carried out by individuals.

And while the overall number of retail thefts is lower than pre-pandemic levels, there's data to suggest some stores have borne the brunt of thefts that have taken place, according to Chicago police data that show which businesses were victims of crime. 

That data was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request, and shows that Walgreens and Target had the most reported thefts in Chicago last year, with more than 2,500 reported retail thefts, or about 30% of all retail thefts in 2022.

Data for this year only accounted for retail thefts up until July, but last year's data offers a glimpse into which businesses have been affected since the pandemic.

Walgreens, which first opened in Chicago in 1901, has about 200 stores in the city. Target has more than 20, according to an analysis of business license data from the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Other retailers like Home Depot, CVS, 7-Eleven, T.J. Maxx, Ulta Beauty, Macy's, and Jewel ranked among the top 10 businesses affected by shoplifting in the city.

So are retail thefts getting worse? 

It's getting there.

Retail thefts climbed from pandemic lows, and are catching up to pre-pandemic highs. 

Retail theft fell for some large retailers such as Walmart, which announced four store closures this year. Meanwhile, theft for retailers like Walgreens and Target shot up.  

Luxury goods retailers also saw increases. Ulta Beauty, which sells beauty products and makeup, saw more than 200 retail thefts last year, up from about 70 in 2019, according to Chicago police data.

Sephora saw under 100 retail thefts, with 75 last year, lower than its pre-pandemic high of 150 in 2018. Marshalls and T.J. Maxx, which operate under TJX companies, saw more than 100% increases last year, with Marshalls reporting more than 300 thefts, up from about 100 in 2021, and T.J. Maxx reporting nearly 250 thefts last year, up from about 115 in 2021.

These figures do not include so-called smash-and-grabs, which are categorized separately under burglaries.

Like robberies, many of these crimes do not result in an arrest. Only 22% of retail thefts last year resulted in an arrest. Arrest rates were higher in 2019 with 43% and 54% in 2016.

Burglaries & smash-and-grabs

There were only about 7,000 reported burglaries so far this year. Since the pandemic, the number of burglaries has dropped to historic lows. Department stores and small retailers saw burglaries spike in 2020 following the unrest caused by the murder of George Floyd. Since then, burglaries in restaurants and bars have seen a sharp rise in break-ins.

More than 300 break-ins at small retail stores were reported so far this year. Those include Boneyard in West Town, Flee Club in the Tri-Taylor neighborhood, and Urban Jungle in Wicker Park.

That's not including department stores such as Louis Vuitton and Neiman Marcus, which also experienced more post-pandemic break-ins this year. 

CBS Chicago tracked these break-ins over the last year, and while department stores and small retailers saw slightly more break-ins than before COVID, these businesses saw far higher rates a decade ago. 

The use of stolen vehicles to ram storefronts has added a new twist.

The crime data shows a shift in how thieves moved from burglarizing homes and apartments to small stores, and more recently: restaurants and bars. This is all while overall burglaries are at historic lows.

So far this year, more than 600 restaurants have been broken into, more than any year in two decades. Only 29 arrests were made, or 5% of restaurant break-ins this year. That's low, but typical. The Chicago Police Department rarely catches those breaking into restaurants and only reached a 10% arrest rate three times in the last two decades. 

More than 100 bars were broken into this year, a high not seen since 2010. There were only nine arrests from bar break-ins this year.


Chicago mayors are ultimately judged by the perception of crime.

That perception can change depending on where a person lives, plays, or works. The perception can also change if someone is new to Chicago, and doesn't have a long history to compare current rates of crime.

The shifts in Chicago's post-pandemic crimes appear to be largely influenced by the thefts of Kias and Hyundais, and their use in other crimes around the city, bogging down a beleaguered police force that has 1,000 fewer officers.

So far, Mayor Brandon Johnson has used a light touch on the police department compared to his predecessors who reorganized the department (multiple times) or closed police stations

Johnson has increased the police department's budget to $1.99 billion, placed a veteran insider in charge of the department, and approved a new contract, giving officers 20% raises over the next four years.  

He only recently unveiled his public safety plan, while arrest rates for robberies this year are at an all-time low of almost 5% and motor vehicle thefts at nearly 3%.

What's more, of the arrests that were made for robberies and motor vehicle thefts last year, a third of them were juvenile offenders, according to data from Chicago's Inspector General.

Arrest numbers, like any dealing with crime rates, are relative. The highest percentage of arrests for robberies were made in 2013, with 11.27% of the roughly 11,800, a number slightly higher than the roughly 10,400 robberies so far this year. The highest arrest percentage for car thefts was about 13% in 2002.

Decades of police data suggest that car thieves and robbers – sometimes one and the same – have almost always gotten away with these crimes in Chicago.

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