Pass the Smelling Salts: ABC/ESPN's 538 Blog Demonstrates 'Ferguson Effect' in Chicago

April 13th, 2016 10:45 PM

Two writers at the Five Thirty-Eight blog, purchased by ABC's ESPN network two years ago, have done something the crime increase causation deniers will surely detest: demonstrate, despite their tentative language, based on statistical evidence, that "real changes in the process of policing in Chicago" have led to "spike in gun violence in Chicago since the end of November."

Translating the work of writers Rob Arthur and Jeff Asher into plain English: There has been a clear "Ferguson effect" crime wave in the Second City since the release of the Laquan McDonald video in late November; now the criminals are literally getting away with murder with horrifying frequency (HT Powerline; links are in original; bolds are mine throughout this post):

Gun Violence Spiked — And Arrests Declined — In Chicago Right After The Laquan McDonald Video Release

The severe spike in gun violence Chicago is experiencing can be dated to the release of the video in the Laquan McDonald case, a FiveThirtyEight analysis of crime data shows. The same analysis shows that the city has seen a significant drop in arrests made for homicides and nonfatal shootings, as well as other crimes, since the video’s release on Nov. 24. This suggests a decline in law enforcement activity that may be contributing to the rise in gun crime.

McDonald, a black 17-year-old, was shot 16 times and killed by a white police officer in October 2014, but video of the incident was not made public until a judge ruled that it had to be released more than a year later. Intense protests, a U.S. Department of Justice investigation, and calls for the resignation of the police chief and mayor followed.

Chicago police officers have said they are confused by public scrutiny in the wake of the video’s release and have pointed to new and burdensome paperwork as discouraging them from making street stops and engaging in other “proactive policing.” Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi acknowledged that officers might have been more uncertain since the release of the video but suggested that the majority of the change was due to the paperwork requirements. Late last month, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed a new interim police chief, Eddie Johnson, in the hopes of improving department morale. Johnson faces the prospect of the bloodiest year since at least 2003: Chicago is on pace for roughly 570 homicides and nearly 2,100 nonfatal shooting incidents, numbers that could be even higher if the violence increases with warmer weather.

After some cities saw a rise in crime last year, police chiefs and even the head of the FBI suggested that the United States was experiencing a “Ferguson effect”: Police officers sensitive to public scrutiny in the wake of protests over the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, were pulling back on police work, the theory went, and emboldened criminals were seizing their chance. The evidence for any such effect nationally was mixed ...

... The spike in gun violence in Chicago since the end of November, though, is too sharp to be explained by seasonal fluctuations or chance. ...  this spike in gun violence is statistically significant, and the falling arrest numbers suggest real changes in the process of policing in Chicago since the video’s release.

... using Chicago’s open data portal, we were able to pinpoint the start of the increase in gun violence — and the concomitant policing slump — to the wake of the release of the video showing McDonald’s slaying.

... Chicago police made a relatively steady number of arrests per homicide and nonfatal shooting incident each year from 2001 through 2014. But the ratio of arrests for each fell in the immediate aftermath of the video’s release and then plummeted even further in March. Only seven of more than 500 nonfatal shooting incidents (about 1.4 percent) and 24 of 143 homicides (16.7 percent) in the first three months of 2016 have led to an arrest. By comparison, an arrest was made in 16 of 166 nonfatal shooting incidents (9.6 percent) and 7 of 30 homicides (23.3 percent) in October, the month before the video’s release. The average murder clearance rate for large cities is 61 percent, according to the most recent FBI statistics.

There is substantial evidence that Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel "was fully informed about what the (McDonald) video contained and led his lawyers to quash the release of the video just as he was running for re-election."

Completely related to the city's spike in violent crime and murder, which was unacceptably out of control even before November 24 (the authors used the passive and annoying term "gun violence" about a dozen times): A record number of Chicagoans with the means to do so have decided to become former Chicagoans, according to the Chicago Tribune. And guess what? The out-migration can't be tagged as white flight by scaredy-cat racists:

Millionaires are leaving Chicago, report says

Millionaires are leaving Chicago more than any other city in the United States on a net basis, according to a new report.

About 3,000 individuals with net assets of $1 million or more, not including their primary residence, moved from the city last year, with many citing rising racial tensions and worries about crime as factors in the decision, according to research firm New World Wealth. That represented about 2 percent of the city's high net worth individuals.

Cities in the United States that saw a net inflow of millionaires included Seattle and San Francisco.

Chicago was among four cities worldwide with the biggest flight of millionaires.

... Chicagoans moved elsewhere in the United States, said New World Wealth, whose data is used by luxury-goods companies, private banks and real estate professionals, among others.

Findings of the New World Wealth report are consistent with a Nielsen study released late last year that showed Chicago is losing large numbers of affluent African-Americans.

The Nielsen report found that the Chicago area has fallen out of the top echelon of U.S. cities when it comes to the percentage of black households earning more than $100,000.

If the homicide arrest rate doesn't go back at least to where it was, the current rate of flight will quickly rise.

Indulging the criminal element by restricting what law enforcement is allowed to do to maintain order is only popular with criminals, and inflicts ever greater pain on law-abiding citizens who either can't afford to flee, or who have circumstances which prevent them from fleeing.

The Five Thirty-Eight bloggers have done a valuable service — so valuable that I expect the establishment press, which has all too often cast its lot with and expressed its sympathies for police-hostile elements, to do all it can to pretend that their work doesn't exist.

Cross-posted at