“Cold is the best crime deterrent,” Peter Nickeas, the overnight reporter covering violence and mayhem for the Chicago Tribune, tells New York magazine. The magazine followed Nickeas on his beat to see how he tracks trouble in Chicago. As he listens to the bleats of dispatchers on three different scanners, he talks about the 500 crime scenes he's visited in his three years on the job, a span in which the city recorded 1,200 homicides and 6,000 shootings.
Nickeas is a barrel-chested 28, with sandy hair buzzed into a military crew cut. He plans for contingencies, with bottled water in the trunk, his photographer in a second car in case one of them gets a flat and requires an ”extraction.” As he races to a hospital, he says there is little chance of an accident. “I move quickly and with authority. It's defense by way of offense,” he says. He has written 50 “scene of the crime” vignettes, dispatches that have mainly appeared on the paper's website. These pieces, among the newspapers’s most popular online, are more observational: a sergeant who says of a shooting victim en route to the hospital, “He's dead, but he don't know it yet.” Gang members who crash their car in a rival clique's territory and are forced to ask police for a ride home. The magazine says “Nickeas's hope is that with these short narratives he's able to move beyond the relentless crime statistics … and convey a more human truth about the toll of violence on the city.”