(I got my numbers from Wikipedia; feel free to check my math.)
During the Bush era (2001-2008), in comparison, Chicago had 4,260 homicides for an average of 532.5 per year. And during the Clinton years (1993-2000), the city had 6,151, or almost 769 per year.
If you go back to the first President Bush, who only served for one term, Chicago had 3,464 murders, or 866 per year. Reagan? 5,776 homicides in the years 1981-88, or 722 per year. Carter? Another one-term president. During his four years in the White House 3,329 Chicagoans were the victims of homicide, or 832 per year. During the Nixon/Ford years, 1969-1976, the Windy City saw 6,524 homicides, or about 815 per year. For the seven years before that (and that's as far back as the table in Wikipedia goes -- although it does have the year 1928 for some reason, when 498 homicides took place), LBJ was in office when 3,523 homicides were committed in Chicago, or about 503 per year.
Let's look at that information a little bit differently, in a Homicides Per Year table:
See a pattern here? Since the mid-1960s, when I was a kid, homicides in Chicago have actually been going down, not up.
To be fair, the population of Chicago has also been declining during this period, so the numbers per capita may be a little bit different. Here are the census figures for those years:
By my math (and that's always in question), the city's population has declined by about 24 percent since 1960. Homicides (and, again, feel free to check my math) have declined by over 30 percent since 1969, Nixon's first year in office. (Did I cherry-pick those numbers? A little. The number would actually be up since 1964, LBJ's first full year in office. But I stand by the per capita trend, which is down. This table supports that argument.)
But in an article in the Trib yesterday, "August most violent month in Chicago in nearly 20 years," that information was only mentioned near the very end (all emphasis mine):
Tavon was among more than 400 people shot in Chicago this month. There have been at least 78 homicides, marking August as the most violent month in the city in almost 20 years, according to data provided by the Chicago Police Department. And there are two more days to go.
The city hasn't seen a deadlier month since October of 1997, when there were 79 homicides. For the whole year, the count was 761, according to department numbers.
Chicago has recorded 487 homicides and more than 2,800 people shot so far this year, compared to 491 homicides and 2,988 people shot all of last year, according to Tribune data.
Earlier this month, Johnson met with several police chiefs from across the country to discuss the nation's gun violence problem, noting that over 40 U.S. cities experienced spikes in violence last year after years of decreases in the number of killings.
What's the moral of the story? I guess that Paul Krugman was right when he wrote recently:
But then a funny thing happened: The murder rate began falling, and falling, and falling. By 2014 it was all the way back down to where it was half a century earlier. There was some rise in 2015, but so far, at least, it’s barely a blip in the long-run picture.
Basically, American cities are as safe as they’ve ever been. Nobody is completely sure why crime has plunged, but the point is that the nightmare landscape of the Republican candidate’s rhetoric — call it Trump’s hellhole? — bears no resemblance to reality.
I keep saying this, but as far as my wife and I are concerned (we moved back to the city two years ago), Chicago has never been nicer. Really. I even wrote a post about it; you can read it here.