Untangling: What’s Happening in Chicago? How Much Is Violence an Issue?


The nicest parts of Chicago (top 10%) are now much nicer, the safer parts much safer. The skills required by media to explain what’s going on are now much greater than what would be needed in the past. These issues combine to make it difficult to decipher what’s happening in the city from afar. Both patterns – the actual events, and the observation of the events, are fracturing – experiencing a fractal as a result of wealth concentration brought on over the past two years.


“What’s happening in Chicago?” asks a friend over the phone, “I can’t tell.”

On cable news, on television, Chicago is violent. 44 are shot in one weekend. 8 die. (Link to August 2022 news) My friend lives in Los Angeles, his wife is from South America, they travel the world. “The news can’t be trusted to be accurate,” he says, “what did you see when you were there?”

I visited Chicago to see customers in the suburbs in June, at that time nearly 1,000 people had already been shot in 2022 (Link). My hotel was downtown, in The Loop. Violence occurs nearby (2 killed in Downtown violence, Michigan Avenue Crisis Worsens, Gunfire Near ‘Bean’), but I saw none. Chicago is full of tourists. The violence I see on cable news, on television is similar to that seen by my Angelino friend. Cable and television news does not stop tourists. My personal experience and that of the media does not agree.

The violence is real and does not stop tourism. What’s going on?

“I have a theory,” I say, and attempt to overlay how Mandelbrot’s fractals explain the impact of lockdowns and the past three years. He listens and helps formulate this hypothesis.

  1. The nicest 10% of Chicago is much nicer than the bottom 90%. With the concentration of wealth that has occurred, the nicest 10% of that 10% – the 1% – is now even that much nicer than the 10% – 2% of niceness from which it has emerged.
  2. Likewise, safety has stratified. The safest 10% has now been stratified, such that within it, the safest 10%, the overall top 1%, is now much safer – perhaps truly safe. This area includes the wealthiest neighborhoods and tourist areas most of the time.
  3. The nicest neighborhoods in Chicago are the same (link); near North Side, Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, Old Town, The Loop, Streeterville, Lake View, Wicker Park, River North, Marina City, etc. When the stratification happened, it didn’t knock a neighborhood out wholesale – it created stratification within the neighborhood.
  4. 10% of Gold Coast is even safer than the 90% it as now left behind – the same for Lincoln Park, and all the neighborhoods above, etc. Maybe one building is now much safer than the next. Maybe one floor is safer than another. A fracture has occurred.
  5. How do you know if you’re in the safest part post-fracture? If you have to ask, you are not in it.

Within the nicest and safest parts of Chicago, parts become even nicer, even safer.

Watching cable news, watching television in South America with his wife, my friend sees the same confusing coverage I see in New England because the same stratification has happened to news coverage. The changes from the new stratification to the neighborhoods are too fresh. Media coverage is also stratified, making it less likely for a proper understanding to occur.

In the past, the best 10% of media coverage caught the stratification. Now only the best 10% of the 10% – the 1% – detects the change.

Beforehand, it took the top 10% of media to articulate what was the safest 10% of Chicago:

.10 * .10 = .01

Post fracture, we require the top 10% of the 10% to describe the safest 10% of the 10%:

.10 * .10 * .10 * .10 = .0001

The region of safety decreases from 10% to 1%, making detection more difficult. Because my Angelino friend and I depend on a fallible news media to digest what’s happening, because we’re not locals, the lens used is also lower in quality.

What Would Prove this Wrong?

Crime statistics could show that Chicago is less dangerous, making this whole topic moot.

We could learn that past reporting on crime was no more accurate, making the compounding effect of reporting irrelevant.

If there is a source of information reporting on this accurately – it could be that my Angelino friend and I are the only two people who seem to think violence in Chicago is an issue.

What Would Prove this Right?

If over time, certain areas continued to show less crime – and if those areas were subsets within the previous ‘nice’ areas of no crime. A map would emerge like the illustrations of WW2 airplanes with bullet holes showing what hasn’t been hit.

This could only be proven correct with multiple studies over a long period of time. Socioeconomic and crime data is not quickly gathered.

About flybrand1976

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