Why People Misperceive Crime Trends (Chicago Is Not the Murder Capital)

Toni Monkovic and

Cities can be like people in at least one respect — it can be tough to shake a bad reputation.

A recent New York Times quiz revealed some common misperceptions about crime trends, the most widely held of which involved Chicago. Readers were asked to rank Chicago nationally in murder rate. The options were first, third, fifth or seventh. Most picked “first,” and only 8 percent chose the right answer (seventh).

Chicago has struggled mightily to contain violence, but its reputation has probably also been shaped by portrayals in film and TV; news coverage; and political messaging.

Former President Donald J. Trump repeatedly criticized Chicago, saying it was “worse than Afghanistan.” And conservatives have long depicted Chicago as a crime capital. The reasons could include an opportunity to fault President Obama for not keeping his home city safe and to argue that gun restrictions are not able to stop violent crime. Defenders of those restrictions point out that nearby states have lax gun regulations and thus undercut Chicago’s efforts.


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