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More than 2 in 3 Chicago residents feel unsafe in their own neighborhood, according to a poll by the Chicago Index

CHICAGO – Less than a quarter of Chicago residents feel safe after nearly two years of pandemic and rising crime across the city, and less than a third feel safe in their own neighborhood, according to a new poll from the Chicago Index.

The numbers represent a significant decrease compared to last autumn, when 45 percent of the respondents described the “feeling of security” in their neighborhood as “excellent” or “good”. The latest survey polled 703 Chicago residents and 128 suburbs of Cook County between November 29 and December 20 last year.

Nine percent of city dwellers rated the security of their own neighborhood as “excellent”, and a further 24 percent as “good”. Only 24 percent of the respondents described the city as “rather safe” or “very safe”, 30 percent said it was “somewhat unsafe” and 46 percent said Chicago was “very unsafe”.

“The results are alarming,” said Michelle Kobayashi, senior vice president of innovation at Polco, the Colorado-based company that conducted the survey. About 79 percent of respondents among the 333 cities Polco surveyed over the past five years tend to rate their own neighborhoods high for safety, Kobayashi said. Only one has reported lower numbers than Chicago – although other major cities across the country have seen similar increases in crime since 2020.

“We’re seeing lower ratings [on safety] from bigger cities, ”said Kobayashi. “But it doesn’t often happen that it ever drops below 50 percent.”

Chicago recorded 836 murders in 2021, an increase from the historically violent 2020 in the city and a number not seen in Chicago since 1994, Cook County’s court system.

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Chicago public confidence in all levels of government has plummeted over the past year, according to the Chicago Index. Only 9 percent of those polled in November and December said the city is “going in the right direction,” compared with 26 percent in the first quarter of 2021 and 21 percent in the third quarter.

The poll represents the fourth iteration of the Chicago Index quarterly poll, a collaboration between The Daily Line and Crain that combines probability and non-probability samples of Cook County residents. The results are weighted according to age, race, gender, home ownership and place of residence within the city. The error rate of the survey is 4 percent.

The first three Chicago Index polls last year showed dismal approval ratings for Lightfoot – a trend that worsened in the latest poll, when just 15 percent of respondents rated their leadership as “excellent” or “good”. Chicago City Council approval ratings fell similarly, from 25 percent in the poll in the third quarter to 17 percent last month.

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But Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s approval numbers have dropped even more, from 50 percent in the second quarter of 2021 to 41 percent in the third quarter and only 32 percent in the fourth quarter. And Governor JB Pritzker slipped on a similar path: 67 percent of respondents rated him positive in September, compared with 53 percent in November and December.

Preckwinkle and Pritzker are both facing re-election this year, with the mayoral election following just behind in February 2023.

The most recent survey also gave other key figures on “quality of life”. 72 percent of respondents said they felt less safe shopping in Chicago retail stores than they did in 2019. The same percentage said they felt less safe going to the movies or concerts, and 84 percent said they were Feeling less safe driving public transport than they did in 2019.

Overall, about 41 percent of respondents named Chicago an “excellent” or “good” place to live, up from 54 percent in September. Ratings also fell across the board – albeit at lower margins – when city dwellers were asked to rate their own neighborhood as a place to live, work, and raise children.

When survey participants feel insecure, it’s common for their feelings to get sour about a number of other issues near their home, Kobayashi said.

“We’ve asked people in thousands of cities what they think they care most about, what the city should focus on, and number one or two is always safety,” she said. “It is of the essence – the desire to stay alive is at the core of being human. So if you feel that your safety is being threatened, it really has an impact on the way you view your quality of life. “

Public perceptions of crime can also be heavily influenced by media coverage and high-profile crime reported in normally safe neighborhoods, Kobayashi added.

The increase in crime perception recorded by the Chicago Index did not correspond directly to trends in violent crime over the past year. The city recorded 193 homicides between July 1 and August 31, compared to 114 homicides between November 1 and December 31, which the city said reflects a typical increase in crime during the summer months.

Chicago Public Schools, the Department of Planning and Development, and the Department of Public Health all saw decreases in their approval ratings between polls in the third and fourth quarters.

The Chicago Police Department saw a rare increase in audience ratings: 43 percent of respondents said they were “fairly happy” or “very happy” with the department over the past month, compared with 34 percent who said so in the fall. At the same time, however, only 19 percent of respondents in cities said they believe the police force is “something” or “very” effective in preventing violent crime. Another 58 percent of Chicago residents surveyed said the police were “not at all effective” at preventing violence.

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