Symposium Introduction: This Violent City? Urban Violence in Chicago and Beyond
Aziz Z. Huq - Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School.

John Rappaport - Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School.

The Enduring Neighborhood Effect, Everyday Urban Mobility, and Violence in Chicago
Robert J. Sampson - Robert J. Sampson is the Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University and Affiliated Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation.

Brian L. Levy - Assistant Professor of Sociology at George Mason University.

A longstanding tradition of research linking neighborhood disadvantage to higher rates of violence is based on the characteristics of where people reside. This Essay argues that we need to look beyond residential neighborhoods to consider flows of movement throughout the wider metropolis. Our basic premise is that a neighborhood’s well-being depends not only on its own socioeconomic conditions but also on the conditions of neighborhoods that its residents visit and are visited by—connections that form through networks of everyday urban mobility. Based on the analysis of large-scale urban-mobility data, we find that while residents of both advantaged and disadvantaged neighborhoods in Chicago travel far and wide, their relative isolation by race and class persists. Among large U.S. cities, Chicago’s level of racially segregated mobility is the second highest. Consistent with our major premise, we further show that mobility-based socioeconomic disadvantage predicts rates of violence in Chicago’s neighborhoods beyond their residence-based disadvantage and other neighborhood characteristics, including during recent years that witnessed surges in violence and other broad social changes. Racial disparities in mobility-based disadvantage are pronounced—more so than residential neighborhood disadvantage. We discuss implications of these findings for theories of neighborhood effects on crime and criminal justice contact, collective efficacy, and racial inequality.

Neighborhood Inequality and Violence in Chicago, 1965–2020
Patrick Sharkey - William S. Tod Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.

Alisabeth Marsteller - Researcher at Princeton University’s Office of Population Research.

This Essay analyzes trends in violence from a spatial perspective, focusing on how changes in the murder rate are experienced by communities and groups of residents within the city of Chicago. The Essay argues that a spatial perspective is essential to understanding the causes and consequences of violence in the United States and begins by describing the social policies and theoretical mechanisms that explain the connection between concentrated disadvantage and violent crime.

The analysis expands on a long tradition of research in Chicago, and it studies the distribution of violence in the city’s neighborhoods from 1965 to 2020. It additionally analyzes how the concentration of violence is overlaid with police violence and incarceration, creating areas of compounded disadvantage. Finally, it compares the recent trends of violence in Chicago with trends across the hundred largest cities in the United States.

This Essay concludes that addressing the challenge of extreme, persistent segregation by race, ethnicity, and income across Chicago’s neighborhoods is necessary for producing a sustained reduction both in the city’s overall level of violence and in the disparities in the levels of violence faced by different neighborhoods.

Prospects for Reform? The Collapse of Community Policing in Chicago
Wesley G. Skogan - Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science and the Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University.

In an era of renewed enthusiasm for police reform, it could be instructive to examine how reforms—even successful reforms—fail. In the 1990s and 2000s, Chicago’s community-policing initiative was widely recognized as one of the most impressive in the country. In short order, it then collapsed. Community policing’s accomplishments were numerous, but it fell victim to issues commonly facing reform: money—especially the impact of economic downturns; leadership turnover and policy preferences; changes in the social, political, and crime environments; and the emergence of new technologies for responding to community concerns.

Capitalizing on Crisis: Chicago Policy Responses to Homicide Waves, 1920–2016
Robert Vargas - Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Chicago.

Chris Williams - Ph.D. Student, Sociology Department, University of Chicago.

Phillip O’Sullivan - Joint J.D./Ph.D. Student, Department of Statistics, Harvard University.

Christina Cano - Undergraduate Student, Sociology Department, University of Chicago.

This Essay investigates Chicago city-government policy responses to the four largest homicide waves in its history: 1920–1925, 1966–1970, 1987–1992, and 2016. Through spatial and historical methods, we discover that Chicago police and the mayor’s office misused data to advance agendas conceived prior to the start of the homicide waves. Specifically, in collaboration with mayors, the Chicago Police Department leveraged its monopoly over crime data to influence public narratives over homicide in ways that repeatedly (1) delegitimized Black social movements, (2) expanded policing, (3) framed homicide as an individual rather than systemic problem, and (4) exclusively credited police for homicide rate decreases. These findings suggest that efforts to improve violence-prevention policy in Chicago require not only a science of prevention and community flourishing but also efforts to democratize how the city uses data to define and explain homicide.

Identifying and Measuring Excessive and Discriminatory Policing
Alex Chohlas-Wood - Executive Director, Stanford Computational Policy Lab.

Marissa Gerchick - Data Scientist, Stanford Computational Policy Lab.

Sharad Goel - Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School.

Aziz Z. Huq - Frank and Bernice J. Greenberg Professor of Law, University of Chicago.

Amy Shoemaker - Data Scientist, Stanford Computational Policy Lab.

Ravi Shroff - Assistant Professor of Applied Statistics, New York University.

Keniel Yao - Data Scientist, Stanford Computational Policy Lab.

We describe and apply three empirical approaches to identify superfluous police activity, unjustified racially disparate impacts, and limits to regulatory interventions. First, using cost-benefit analysis, we show that traffic and pedestrian stops in Nashville and New York City disproportionately impacted communities of color without achieving their stated public-safety goals. Second, we address a longstanding problem in discrimination research by presenting an empirical approach for identifying “similarly situated” individuals and, in so doing, quantify potentially unjustified disparities in stop policies in New York City and Chicago. Finally, taking a holistic view of police contact in Chicago and Philadelphia, we show that settlement agreements curbed pedestrian stops but that a concomitant rise in traffic stops maintained aggregate racial disparities, illustrating the challenges facing regulatory efforts. These case studies highlight the promise and value of viewing legal principles and policy goals through the lens of modern data analysis—both in police reform and in reform efforts more broadly.

Racially Territorial Policing in Black Neighborhoods
Elise C. Boddie - Henry Rutgers Professor, Professor of Law, and Judge Robert L. Carter Scholar, Rutgers Law School.

This Essay explores police practices that marginalize Black people by limiting their freedom of movement across the spaces of Black neighborhoods. In an earlier article, I theorized “racial territoriality” as a form of discrimination that “excludes people of color from—or marginalizes them within—racialized White spaces that have a racially exclusive history, practice, and/or reputation.” In this Essay, I consider how my theory of racial territoriality could apply to policing. It offers an account of how police not only criminalize Black people but also criminalize Black spaces, ostensibly justifying them—and the people who live in or frequent them—as “natural” targets for police activity. As an example of racially territorial policing, the Essay discusses the Supreme Court’s decision in Illinois v. Wardlow and the costs that it imposes by granting police significant discretion to stop people in areas that they define—often inaccurately, according to some research—as having high levels of crime.

Barbed Wire Fences: The Structural Violence of Education Law
LaToya Baldwin Clark - Assistant Professor, University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law.

In this Essay, I argue that, in urban metros like Chicago, poor Black children are victims of not just gun violence but also the structural violence of systemic educational stratification. Structural violence occurs in the context of domination, where poor Black children are marginalized and isolated, vulnerable to lifelong subordination across many domains. Specifically, I argue that U.S. education policy subjects poor Black children to the violence of intergenerational subordination by trapping children behind residential barbed wire fences, starving their schools of necessary resources, and abusively dangling powerless community control.

An Abolitionist Critique of Violence
Allegra McLeod - Professor, Georgetown University Law Center.

Cities, Preemption, and the Statutory Second Amendment
Joseph Blocher - Lanty L. Smith ’67 Professor of Law, Duke Law School.

Although the Second Amendment tends to dominate the discussion about legal limits on gun regulation, nothing has done more to shape the state of urban gun law than state preemption laws, which fully or partially limit cities’ ability to regulate guns at the local level. The goals of this short Essay are to shed light on this “Statutory Second Amendment” and to provide a basic framework for evaluating it.