As Chicago grapples with a surge in killings and a mistrust of law enforcement stemming from police shootings, the number of arrests in the city has fallen by 28 percent versus last year, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis finds. The number of arrests is on target to be the city’s lowest since at least 2001. Through mid-December, police were on pace to make about 50,000 arrests citywide in 2016, down from over 69,000 a year ago. The drop is steepest in areas such as Englewood and Austin where violence is common and police have long flooded “hot spots” and drug markets. But the decline isn’t limited to high-crime areas: Arrests are down by double digits in every district in the city.
Arrests have fallen in every major crime category included in the city’s online database, from theft to aggravated battery with a handgun — the most common charge for a nonfatal shooting. Narcotics arrests plummeted by half — the most dramatic decrease for any type of crime. That’s partly because of a state law that took effect this summer decriminalizing possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana. Chicago cops this year will make about 4,200 arrests for misdemeanor pot possession — down from 20,000 five years ago. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says the figures reflect the department’s focus on addressing gun violence and improving community relations. “We want to arrest the right people at the right times for the right reasons,” Johnson says. “But just indiscriminately stopping people? No. We cannot arrest our way out of this.”