By: Jules Galway (Loyola Sophomore) and Maddie Ally (Loyola Senior)
Throughout the United States, city residents are worrying about chilling violent crime statistics in their areas and hope their voices can bring change in upcoming election cycles.
Rogers Park is no exception as residents saw a 110 percent increase in violent crime between 2021 and 2023, according to the Chicago Police Department. While certain Chicago neighborhoods have garnered a dangerous reputation over the years, residents seem to be fed up with these occurrences and they’re ready to make a difference. Specifically, voters have turned their heads to the 2023 Municipal Election and hope to implement new policies to see this change.
While the election encompasses races for Mayor, Alderpeople, City Clerk, City Treasurer, and Police District Council, the most popular race on voters’ minds is who will be the next Mayor of Chicago. According to Reuters, voters are most strongly focusing on crime and public safety in this election, with criminal justice reform being the second prominent issue.
On Feb. 28, the City of Chicago’s incumbent Mayor Lightfoot failed to secure a bid for the runoff after the race was crowded with nine candidates vying for her role. Democrat Paul Vallas was one candidate who secured his spot in the runoff with 34 percent of the vote with 99 percent of precincts reporting. His opposition will be Democrat Brandon Johnson, who received 20 percent of the vote.
Crime and public safety concerns in Rogers Park have increased in the neighborhood and residents have borne witness to these crimes. Recently on Feb. 23, 2023, a young 13-year-old boy was shot in Rogers Park that afternoon and taken to the hospital for injuries sustained. And on Feb. 12, 2023, a 23-year-old man was fatally shot in the Chicago neighborhood as well.
In light of the Municipal Election, voters are thinking of these victims and what policy changes could be enacted in the future to reduce more instances like the aforementioned.
When asked about potential policy changes, Chicagoans had various ideas that could potentially prevent violent crime from increasing. Chicago resident Sam Simone (23) believes violent crime has a simple solution.
“Social welfare and affordable housing,” said Simone. “It’s literally as simple as that. We need to be supporting people, not punishing them.”
Cities, such as Chicago, have a significantly higher poverty rate than most suburban areas. In most U.S. regions, a higher poverty rate tends to include a higher crime rate in general, and according to the University of California – Irvine, affordable housing and solutions to decreasing homelessness have been proven to reduce crime in that area.
Another policy some would like to see enacted is more police presence in the neighborhood and on the public Chicago Transit Authority buses and trains as well.
19-year-old Loyola Freshman Michael Vereb said, “I do think we need more of a police presence around the heavily trafficked tourist areas. The CTA is another big issue itself. I regularly take the L [Elevated train] between campuses instead of the shuttle and there’s definitely a lot of people on it that are causing problems. There needs to be more either security or police presence in the trains and platforms.”
Despite a significantly lower number of riders on the Chicago public transportation system from pre-pandemic in 2019 until 2022, reported violent crime had still increased between those years. The CTA has been working to amend the staffing shortfall since the pandemic as well, while still working to produce the same services to riders that were offered in 2019 and prior.
Rogers Park resident Seth Stein (28) said, “Taking care of small things helps the bigger issues solve themselves. Small things like if more people use public transportation, and the safer it’ll become. We need to start paying attention to the smaller issue and the smaller communities, such as Rogers Park, to help fight against the bigger issues like crime.”
On the other hand, many claim gun ownership laws are an issue in the city that is causing this as well. Gun ownership laws have been a hot topic, not just in Chicago, but the United States in general with members of Congress focusing their efforts on changing or maintaining these laws on a federal level.
“We definitely need stricter gun laws,” said Loyola sophomore Regina Pochocki (20). “I mean that’s just what our country needs in general. We need to make sure that if people want to get guns, then they have to be in the right mind.”
Alternate forms of policing and public safety have been suggested by residents of the neighborhood.
“It’s obviously not just a Rogers Park issue,” said local business owner Roberta (45). “I used to live in a neighborhood that had a beat cop and he became a person in the community, someone who always had an ear to the ground, and personally connected to the people in the neighborhood. [The solution is] not as aggressive as more policing, but something to make the residents feel safer and connected to their community.”
Conversely, other residents are opposed to heightened police presence in the neighborhood, advocating for less policing and defunding the Chicago Police Department in light of the Black Lives Matter movement.
25-year-old Nick Von, a recent Rogers Park resident said, “I walk around near my house, and I can see 10 cops around at all times. I don’t think the answer is adding more policing to these areas. It’s enough, no more.”
From providing social welfare and affordable housing to adding additional police protection, concerned citizens of Chicago are focused on protecting their community and its people.
While residents of the Rogers Park area may have differing perspectives on solutions and next steps for the newly elected Mayor of Chicago, there is one thing that the community strongly agrees on: crime and public safety are of top priority.