A surprising decrease in arrests by Chicago Police have many wondering what’s next

Chicago Police car blocks a corner of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's home, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

In 2016, Chicago Police officers made 85,493 arrests compared to 112,996 in 2015, a decrease of 24%. This is also roughly half of the 167,355 arrests made in 2010.

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As The Chicago Sun-Times reports, arrest numbers have steadily declined since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office, with the most recent sharp decline correlating to increasing overtime working conditions due to a shortage of officers.

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According to Kevin Graham, the President of the Fraternal Order of Police, that “one problem is that our members are being excessively punished for minor or insignificant infractions.”

He also called the “code of silence” a “tired and false cliche” despite reporting from Chicago Reader to the contrary.

But when it comes to policing and upholding the law, what separates a “minor or insignificant” infraction from a potentially major or significant one?

Alderman Anthony Beale of the 9th ward (which covers primarily the Pullman and Roseland neighborhoods on the Far South Side) echoed Graham’s story, that police are not only being recorded by civilians but by their own body cameras as well. This leads to a more “passive” approach to policing.

Of course, a higher number of arrests doesn’t mean a safer city. Or as CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi wrote to the Sun Times: “Ultimately, increasing arrest numbers is not our goal, it’s reducing crime numbers.”

ACLU spokesman Ed Yohnka agrees and suggested that the lower arrest rates could be in part due to officers “giving a lower priority to making arrests for small amounts of marijuana.”

While still nowhere near as bad as rates in the 1990s, shootings and homicides have seen an increase over the past few years.

Taking a look at annual police reports, Chicago logged 931 homicides in 1994, with 294,631 arrests. In 1992 there were 943 homicides with 306,369 arrests. Historically, more arrests do not necessarily mean safer streets.

2016 recorded 806 homicides over 2015’s 509. There have been 461 homicides so far this year.

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The story was released after one of the deadliest weekends of the year, with over 60 people shot, including one police-related incident investigating a group of men drinking in a park.

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