Tag: Chicago

Daily Data Dump: Chicago homicides are decreasing, while homicide clusters still persist


2016 and 2017 Homicides in Chicago per Month


Homicides of Neighborhood/Homicides of Chicago


Number of Homicides per Neighborhood



Matt has a Bachelor of Science in Systems Science, with focuses in applied mathematics and economic systems, from Iowa State University. He is also a professional member of the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics and the International Society for the Systems Sciences and a scholarly member of Omicron Delta Epsilon, which is an International Honors Society for Economics. 

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Photo Credit: Pixabay







Copyright ©2017 – The Systems Scientist

Chicagoland: 2017 homicide rate on track to match 2016 homicide rate

By Matt Johnson

There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the high number of homicides happening in Chicagoland. The midwestern city is on track to match its 2016 homicide total.

At the end of February 2016, Chicago had experienced 103 homicides. That was an increase of more than 96 percent from the year before. Matter of fact, there were a total of 52 homicides in January and February of 2015. In contrast, both 2016 and 2017 doubled 2015 numbers two years in a row.

In 2017, there were 55 homicides in January and 48 homicides in February according to the Chicago Tribune. Comparing 2017 to 2016, January saw a 3.6 percent decrease, which appeared promising. However, February made up for the decrease in homicides with a 6.7 percent increase. This bump in an otherwise traditionally quiet month for adverse socio-economic factors pushed Chicago back into the direction it desperately didn’t need to go.


In addition, it should be noted that the majority of these homicides are concentrated in the same few neighborhoods year after year. Thus, homicides along with other adverse socio-economic factors are not an acute issue. They are chronic and the science and mathematics are clear on this point.

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In 2016, 4 of the 5 neighborhoods with the highest numbers of homicides were located on Chicago’s West Side.


And now in 2017, the West Side neighborhoods of Austin, Englewood, and Garfield Park are the top 3 deadliest neighborhoods in Chicago so far this year, and one ought to expect this unfortunate reality to continue because of historical data and trends. Again, there are adverse socio-economic factors that have not been addressed. 

As of this moment, and although these numbers could change in the next 24 hours, Austin has experienced 14 homicides, Garfield Park has experienced 10 homicides, and Englewood has experienced 8 homicides according to heyjackass.com (again, they provide reliable statistics and sources). North Lawndale has had 5 homicides so far this year.

If this homicide rate continues for the remainder of the year, then it is likely that Chicago will see another 785 to 800 homicides this year.


Matt Johnson is a writer for The Systems Scientist and the Urban Dynamics blog . He has also contributed to the Iowa State Daily and Our Black News.

He has a Bachelor of Science, Systems Science with focuses in applied mathematics and economic systems; and he is a member of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and the International Society for the Systems Sciences.

You can connect with him directly in the comments section, and follow him on Twitter or on Facebook

You can also follow The Systems Scientist on Twitter or Facebook.

Photo credit: Aurimas






Copyright ©2017 – The Systems Scientist

Homicides may be down in Chicago, but adverse conditions still persist

By Matt Johnson

As we all know, the life of a young black man in Chicago is only worth the revenues the mainstream media outlets can squeeze out of him after he becomes another statistic to drive views, visitors, ads, and subscriptions. If we believe his well-being and the well-being of those around him is paramount to these mainstream organizations in corporate media, then we surely are blind to the realities of what the mainstream media has become.

Perhaps in Ted Turner’s day, mainstream outlets such as CNN would have reported such realities of violence in the context of the environment and the conditions of that environment. In other words, homicides just don’t happen alone. There are conditions and incentives that must be met. But today, different methods of how to obtain and address these issues must be explored.

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For example, crime was down overall in Chicago for the month of January 2017 compared to January 2016. As the data illustrates, there were 55 homicides in January 2017; whereas, there were 57 homicides in January 2016.

That’s a reduction of a little more than 3 and half percent. Obviously, this is good news. And so far, homicides look like they may be down for February as well. As of right now, there have been only 3 homicides for the month of February; there were 46 in February 2016.

If the rate of homicides remains at less than 1 per day, then that would be quite a reduction from 2016. But considering the adverse socio-economic factors affecting the area where the highest concentrations of these homicides are happening, it is unlikely this decreasing trend will continue. Why might this be?

In 2016, the West Side of Chicago was hit the hardest with homicides. Of the top 5 neighborhoods to experience the highest concentrations of homicides, 4 of the 5 were located on Chicago’s West Side. Here’s a little data to put this into perspective (note: Englewood is the neighborhood not on the West Side):


Of the 297 homicides from these 5 neighborhoods, 212, or a little more than 71 percent, occurred on the West Side. That’s quite a concentration.

To put this into perspective, I will see a concentration in a neighborhood in a particular city I study. In Chicago, I see a concentration in neighborhoods, plural. But like I said before, homicides do not live alone – there are conditions that reside together, and the mainstream media misses this point.

Note: these are 2014 numbers and so these comparisons are approximate.

In the case of the West Side of Chicago, 39.4 percent of its residents live below the poverty line, which is about 20 percent higher than the city average. And this doesn’t include extreme poverty rates, which would increase the West Side average to more than 50 percent.

In addition, the median income for the West Side is $26,292. In contrast, the median income for the City of Chicago is $46,195. Clearly, there is quite a difference in purchasing power between the residents of the West Side and the residents of Chicago in general. And this leads to some important questions.

What does the marketplace look like on the West Side? For the businesses that are there, they are constrained by how much consumers will spend and they are constrained by how many people they can employ because of revenue deficiencies and skills of the potential workers in the local labor market.

What would be some possible solutions to addressing such market discrepancies? As Mike Rowe has stated several times, there is nothing wrong with a vocational education. In fact, there are some vocational jobs that will pay more than jobs that require a four-year degree. In addition, a vocational education will take less time to push more skilled workers back into the marketplace where they are needed; and in this case, that place is the West Side of Chicago.

These are just two questions. There are many questions and possible solutions because these problems are complex problems. In addition, Cities are complex systems with complex problems and just reporting on homicides does nothing to put these complex problems into context or perspective, nor does it lead to possible solutions.

Thus, homicides may be down in Chicago, but adverse conditions still persist.

Matt Johnson is a writer for The Systems Scientist and the Urban Dynamics blog; and is a mathematical scientist. He has also contributed to the Iowa State Daily and Our Black News.

You can connect with him directly in the comments section, and follow him on Twitter or on Facebook

You can also follow The Systems Scientist on Twitter or Facebook as well. 

Photo credit: Chicago Planning History

Copyright ©2017 – The Systems Scientist

Chicagoland Update: Homicides are ‘Up’ in 2017

By Matt Johnson

It’s still early, but it appears as though homicides in 2017 in Chicago are ahead of 2016 data. Last year at this time in January of 2016, there were 44 homicides. However, homicides are ahead by two at 46 in 2017. That’s a 4.5 percent increase from 2016. If this rate keeps up, it is projected that Chicago will see 60 homicides for the month of January.

As the graph illustrates, blue is the number of crimes as of January 25th of its respective year while red is the number of homicides January ended with. This obviously is not a good start to the year considering homicides in Chicago increased by more than 56 percent in 2016.



In addition, the majority of these 46 homicides so far reside in the Austin and Garfield Park neighborhoods at 9 and 8 homicides, respectively. Of the 798 homicides last year, Austin experienced 92 homicides while Garfield Park experienced 58 homicides.

For the Austin neighborhood, that was 11.5 percent of the total number of homicides in 2016; and for the Garfield Park neighborhood, that was about 7.3 percent of the total number of homicides in 2016. Together, that was nearly 19 percent, or nearly 1/5, of the total number of homicides that occurred in Chicago in 2016.

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Finally, if this 4.5 percent increase in homicides keeps pace for the remainder of the year, it is projected there will be more than 830 homicides, or nearly 40 more homicides. However, this projection does not include the summer months of June, July, and August, which historically see much higher numbers of crimes across the board: violent and non-violent crimes.

Remember, these homicides are happening in areas that are economically depressed. So homicides are just the tip of the iceberg.


Matt Johnson is a writer for The Systems Scientist and the Urban Dynamics blog; and is a mathematical scientist. He has also contributed to the Iowa State Daily and Our Black News.

You can connect with him directly in the comments section, and follow him on Twitter or on Facebook

You can also follow The Systems Scientist on Twitter or Facebook as well. 

Photo credit: Pixabay




Copyright ©2016 – The Systems Scientist

Chicago 1969: When Black Panthers aligned with Confederate-flag-wielding, working-class whites

In the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump won the white vote across all demographics except for college-educated white women. He did especially well among working class white voters: 67 percent of whites without a college degree voted for him.

Some post-election analysis marveled at how the white working class could vote against its own interests by supporting a billionaire businessman who is likely to support policies that cut taxes for the rich and weaken the country’s social safety net. Since the New Deal, the Democratic Party has been seen as the party of working people, while Republicans were considered the party of the elites. Donald Trump was able to flip this narrative to his advantage. Election 2016 balkanized issues and made it seem impossible to work on racism, sexism, poverty and economic issues all at once. A core question moving forward for social justice advocates and the Democratic Party is how they can move beyond identity politics and attract working-class voters of all races, building stronger coalitions among disparate groups.

One place to look for inspiration and instruction might be 1960s social movements that understood the power of alliances across identities and issues. During this period, a radical coalition formed that might seem impossible today: A group of migrant southerners and working-class white activists called the Young Patriots joined forces with the Black Panthers in Chicago to fight systemic class oppression.

So how did this alliance form? And how can its lessons be applied to today’s political moment?

An unlikely alliance

In the post-civil rights era, a militant Black Power movement emerged, with the Black Panther Party for Self Defense forming in 1966. Inspired by Malcolm X and other international black thought leaders, the group embraced armed struggle as a potential tool against organized racial oppression – a radical break from the philosophy of nonviolent protest. A large faction of the group developed in Chicago, where one of the party leaders was a young man named Fred Hampton.

Chicago in the 1960s was a brutal place for poor people. Black, brown and white people all dealt with poverty, unemployment, police violence, substandard housing, inadequate schools and a lack of social services. Ethnic and racial groups each created their own social service and activist networks to combat every kind of oppression.

One was the Young Patriot Organization (YPO), which was based in Hillbilly Harlem, an uptown neighborhood of Chicago populated by displaced white southerners. Many YPO members were racist, and they flaunted controversial symbols associated with southern pride, such as the Confederate flag. But like blacks and Latinos, the white Young Patriots and their families experienced discrimination in Chicago. In their case, it was because they were poor and from the South.

In his short time as a Black Panther leader, Fred Hampton wanted to advance the group’s goals by forming a “Rainbow Coalition” of working class and poor people of all races.

Former members of the Chicago Panthers and YPO tell different versions of the same story of how the groups connected: Each attended the other’s organizing meetings and decided to work together on their common issues. Over time, the Black Panthers learned to tolerate Confederate flags as intransigent signs for rebellion. Their only stipulation was that the white Young Patriots denounce racism.

Eventually, Young Patriots rejected their deeply embedded ideas of white supremacy – and even the Confederate flag – as they realized how much they had in common with the Black Panthers and Latino Young Lords.

Despite many differences, the two groups united under the umbrella of economic justice. Redneck Revolt

Assumed to be natural enemies, these groups united in their calls for economic justice. In the Aug. 9, 1969 issue of The Black Panther newspaper, the party’s chief of staff, David Hilliard, admiringly called the Young Patriots “the only revolutionaries we respect that ever came out of the mother country.” Recalling his work with the YPO, former Black Panther Bobby Lee explained that “The Rainbow Coalition was just a code word for class struggle.”

In the end, the Illinois Panthers brought together various elements of the black community, Confederate flag-waving southern white migrants (Young Patriots), Puerto Ricans (Young Lords), poor white ethnic groups (Rising Up Angry, JOIN Community Union, and the Intercommunal Survival Committee), students and the women’s movement. The disparate groups under the coalition’s umbrella pooled resources and shared strategies for providing community services and aid that the government and private sector would not. Initiatives included health clinics, feeding homeless and hungry people, and legal advice for those dealing with unethical landlords and police brutality.

In 2016, a stark racial divide is exposed

Almost 50 years after the original Rainbow Coalition, the U.S. electorate remains divided along racial lines. Even though Donald Trump asked black Americans, “What do you have to lose?” by voting for him and abandoning the Democratic Party, it didn’t work: Only 8 percent of black voters (and 28 percent of Latino and 27 percent of Asian voters) cast ballots for Trump. Blacks and Latinos are well-represented in the working class, and people of color will become the majority in the working class in 2032.

A button depicts the partnership between the Young Patriots and the Black Panthers.

Much 2016 post-election attention has focused on working-class white voters, who have been characterized as “forgotten” and “angry” for being left out of the economic recovery. Yet African-Americans have been far worse off; since the 2007 recession, the unemployment rate of African-Americans is nearly double that of Hispanics and more than twice that of whites.

Hillary Clinton was the candidate who collected the most diverse voter base – the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia looked like the Rainbow Coalition redux – and she was expected to win the election. However, that visual hid racism’s residual and deeply entrenched place in U.S. society. One of the lessons of the 2016 election is that the country is not as advanced in its work on ending racism and discrimination as most would like to believe. Donald Trump did not have to do much to capitalize on this.

The Rainbow Coalition members in 1960s Chicago understood how difficult it is to build coalitions across identities. Former Black Panther Bobby Lee recalled working with the Young Patriots:

It wasn’t easy to build an alliance. I advised them on how to set up ‘serve the people’ programs – free breakfasts, people’s health clinics, all that. I had to run with those cats, break bread with them, hang out at the pool hall. I had to lay down on their couch, in their neighborhood. Then I had to invite them into mine. That was how the Rainbow Coalition was built, real slow.

The coalition, bringing together seemingly polar opposite Black Panthers and Young Patriots, showed that real interactions allow people to understand that their struggles are not essentially different. Donald Trump probably was sincere when he invited African-Americans to join his movement. He simply didn’t realize that a glib invitation would not produce the same results as real coalition-building over a period of time.

The lesson to learn from studying 1960s social movements is that lasting change toward economic and racial justice will probably be built brick by brick, person to person and “real slow.”

The Conversation

Colette Gaiter, Associate Professor, Department of Art and Design, University of Delaware


Photo Credit: Red Anthropology

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This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Chicagoland: the reality of homicides, economic inequality, and lots of other things

By Matt Johnson

This past Sunday evening, 60 Minutes aired a segment about the exploding homicide rate during 2016 in Chicago. According to the Associated Press, there were 762 homicides in Chicago during 2016. The AP sourced that number from the Chicago Police Department. However, according to the Chicago Tribune, there were 779 homicides in 2016. And according to a less well-known source, heyjackass.com (Yeah. I know. The name. It’s still comprehensive. And they provide excellent sources.), there were 795 homicides in Chicago in 2016.

Please note: the differences in homicides are due to how they are counted.


Using the most liberal number, homicides were up by a little more than 56 percent from the previous year. In 2015, there were 509 homicides. And since 2009, there have been about 481 homicides per year, so obviously this was quite a jump.

This particular crime that 60 Minutes focused on illustrated only a component of the depressed systems where these homicides occurred. It ignored the reality of other socio-economic (SE) factors such as unemployment, education, and housing issues such as foreclosures and condemned and vacant buildings.

Thinking about crime along with other adverse SE factors is important because cities are complex systems that are constantly changing and they’re probabilistic (this means they are notoriously difficult to predict). Moreover, these adverse SEs (that’s what I call them) exist in the cities depressed sub-systems, i.e., wards and neighborhoods, where social systems such as economic systems, political systems, and cultural systems interact with each other.

If this seems complicated, that’s because it is.

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In the case where these homicides are pronounced, like the Austin neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago, for example, unemployment, poverty, education levels and lack of access to, and housing issues are also pronounced.

For instance, over the past 12 months, Austin had 16,354 reported crimes. Of these 16,354 crimes, 83 were 1st and 2nd degree homicides (that’s about 11 percent of the total number of homicides in 2016), 2,264 were larceny, 81 were criminal sexual assault, 791 were motor vehicle theft, 847 were robbery, and 350 were prostitution.

Note: this is data from January 1, 2017 and the Chicago PD updates it daily. 

Of course, these aren’t all of the 16,354 reported crimes. But it gets the point across with respect to what the Austin residents experience in these depressed systems everyday. However, crime is just one component of this depressed sub-system, because again, these social systems interact with each other constantly, i.e., cultural systems, political systems, and economic systems.

According to West Side Forward, 30.8 percent of Austin’s population lived below the poverty line and 22.1 percent were unemployed in 2014. In addition, only 18.4 percent had a bachelor’s degree and above. In contrast, the unemployment rate for Chicago was 8.7 percent, the poverty rate was 22.7 percent, and 34.9 percent had a bachelor’s degree and above in 2014.

All of these socio-economic factors are important when considering the totality of the circumstances. This is how one can think about this issue systemically. And this is how policy makers ought to approach these adverse challenges.

Rather than just focusing on one issue at a time, they ought to address these adverse socio-economic factors as a set. That is, address homicides along with other crimes and socio-economic factors such as poverty, unemployment, education, and housing.

One last thought, it easy for us to judge from the perspective of a liberal structuralist or a conservative behaviorist the recent abduction of the young man from the Chicago suburbs by the four teens from the West Side of Chicago. And of course, we shouldn’t tolerate such behavior from any of our kids, period. But perhaps we ought to consider the economic, political, and cultural circumstances from which this happened.

Again, there are no excuses but these four kids are from the West Side and Austin is one of those neighborhoods where the highest rates of crime and concentrations of crime, and of course the high unemployment and poverty rates amongst other things happen on a daily basis.

Homicides, economic inequality, and lots of other things are a reality, and it’s theirs.

Matt Johnson is a writer for The Systems Scientist and the Urban Dynamics blog; and is a mathematical scientist. He has also contributed to the Iowa State Daily and Our Black News.

You can connect with him directly in the comments section, and follow him on Twitter or on Facebook

You can also follow The Systems Scientist on Twitter or Facebook as well. 

Photo credit: Pixabay




Copyright ©2016 – The Systems Scientist

Sweden: Day 1, and Day 2

Little did I know, or did my travel companions know, that Day 1 and Day 2 of our trip would blend together into the longest day. I met my travel companions at the south end of memorial union Saturday morning around 9 am. I purchased some donuts from A Baker’s Wife’s the day before, Friday the 8th, to share with the group. I figured tasty donuts along with coffee would be a great way to start off the trip. I was always told by my grandmother that coffee and pastries were a very Swedish thing. Plus, how could I go wrong offering tastyness to everyone else.

2015 Study Abroad - Sweden
2015 Study Abroad – Sweden

We said our final goodbyes and departed campus around 9:30 am. It was a great ride down to the airport. I got to know Iman, Ryan, Brian, and Sam, who are four of my fellow study abroad mates during our ride to the airport. I met Ryan and Iman before the trip and knew them a tiny bit. But the van ride allowed us to dip a little further into sharing our individual stories; that is, hobbies, school, food, movies, and goals for Sweden. As you can imagine, food was the primary topic. I’m sure the donuts helped that quite a bit. There were plenty of complements in favor of the chocolate and cinnamon donuts.

Our plane was scheduled to leave Des Moines, Iowa around 11 am; at least, I think that was the time. Honestly, I was just following along on this trip. I’ve led plenty operations. It was nice just sitting back and being one of the troops. But I digress. The plane was delayed so that gave us some additional time to hang out and socialize, and socialize we did. Sam introduced us to Euchre (there’s us playing Euchre below). I’m still not sure how to play it but apparently I did fairly well for a first time. Nonetheless, it was fun just interacting with everyone else. The game gave us an opportunity explore each others personalities a little bit. Initial reactions are always important.

Euchre with Sam, Beth, and Iman at Des Moines airport
Euchre with Sam, Beth, Iman, and Brian (from left to right) at the Des Moines airport – May 9, 2015

We waited for about 2 hours and finally boarded around 1 in the afternoon. Our flight from Des Moines to Chicago, a roughly uninteresting 45 minute flight, provided some nap time for those who wanted it. I read 4 chapters of the book Women of Sand and Myrrh which is an interesting tale about 4 women and their perspectives of living in a modern middle-eastern country.

Since we arrived in Chicago late due to our delay in Des Moines, we were unable to experience Chicago food. Yes! Sad face. Food is always a part of the traveling experience and Chicago food would have been simply amazing. Perhaps next time, on our way back to Iowa. The most interesting part of Chicago was seeing the nordic people line up to board the train. I felt like I was at a Johnson family reunion. I looked like everyone else. At least our physical features were the same. But that is where our similarities ended. I heard Swedish; I heard Finnish; and I heard German. There were also some other languages that I couldn’t make out. I found out through casual conversation with other people waiting to board the plane that Stockholm was being used as a connecting hub for those traveling to Germany, Estonia, Finland, Russia, and other countries. It was truly fascinating seeing that much european diversity in the room.

During my flight, my fellow passengers provided background audio aesthetics in Swedish. The airline attendants also provided opportunities to engage in Swedish conversation. But they soon realized that I was an American born and raised. I only had the features of a Swede (but what a Swede looks like, blond hair and blue eyes, is an American perspective, not a Swedish truth; more on this point later). The airline attendants were always very courteous and hospitable.

I was seated on the starboard side (right-side) of the aircraft. From my starboard side, I could see sun-light enter the cabin on the port side (left-side) of the aircraft. Of course, there was darkness on the starboard side, but considering the circumstances of an 8 and half hour flight, the evening was of no consequence because from my point of view, there was no evening. Day seem to last forever. It was truly odd but a fascinating experience to say the least.

For the eight and half hours, I was seated next to a gentleman from Finland, Mika. Mika and I chatted about many things and he provided me with some much needed knowledge about Sweden. He also helped me with my responses to the airline attendants and he helped me to correctly pronounce the name of my great-great grandfather Sven’s home town. As we got to know each other, I shared more and more about my reasons for traveling to Sweden. Of course a big part of this adventure is school related; that is, analyzing leadership and the differences between the opportunities of Swedish women and American women. Make no mistake, there are differences.

On the Bus in Stockholm
On the Bus in Stockholm

These differences, including my Swedish heritage and what Swedish means to me, are some of the things I hope to explore and learn about during my 4 weeks in Sweden. Honestly, I have no idea how this trip will unfold. I would like my experience to be as authentic and organic as possible from beginning to end. And of course, my fellow travel companions are a great group of people with journeys of their own, which will sometimes intertwine with mine and sometimes will not intertwine with mine. What gives me great confidence is the fact that these people have supported my journey from the beginning and that has been an important part of this process because I know that I’m not alone in my journey of discovery.