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In 2016 Chicago witnessed a massive spike in violent crime, particularly a fifty-eight percent spike in homicides, experts are at a loss as to why this happened and are currently debating the reason; however, a new study by the University of Utah details that the spike could have been caused by something called the ‘ACLU effect.’

Chicago is home to the most stringent gun control laws in the nation, yet it is one of the most well-known murder capitals of the world, in fact, Chicago is so bad, that the United States Navy sends medics to train on the streets of ‘Chi-town’ because of the war-like atmosphere that is rampant in Chicago.

Konrad Poplawski, a 22-year old Navy hospital corpsman, is about to be deployed as a battlefield medic with the 2nd Marine Division, which has served in deadly battlegrounds in Iraq and Afghanistan. But first, he is making a pit stop at Cook County’s Stroger Hospital, which the Navy says is among few places here in the U.S. that provide experience treating the types of wounds he will inevitably see on the battlefield. – Wall Street Journal (Works Cited)

In 2015, 480 Chicago residents were killed and in 2016 that number rose by a staggering fifty-eight percent to 754 slain. The study was published by Paul G. Cassell, University of Utah – S.J. Quinney College of Law, and Richard Fowles, University of Utah – College of Social & Behavioral Sciences – Department of Economics, in an attempt to uncover the reasoning behind such a rise.

The authors are evidently attributing the rise in homicides to something called the ‘ACLU Effect,’ or more specifically, the researchers are arguing that the rise is because of a drop in street stops by Chicago police that year.

Interestingly enough, in 2016, Chicago Police had to more thoroughly document each and every single street stop as part of an agreement between the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and the Police Department. The purpose of the agreement was to curb racial profiling and other unconstitutional practices; but as a result of the arrangement, street stops plummeted to about 100,000 for all of 2016, an eighty-two percent decrease from around 600,000 in 2015, according to CPD records and The Chicago Tribune.

The study utilized ’empirical research tools[See Works Cited],’ to understand what exactly took place. Evidently, according to the 98-page paper, the unrealistic decrease in street stops have a direct correlation to the number of homicides that took place in Chicago. Effectively, the paper details what the authors call the ACLU Effect.

According to the Abstract;

“This article provides empirical evidence that the reduction in stop and frisks by the Chicago Police Department beginning around December 2015 was responsible for the homicide spike that started immediately thereafter. The sharp decline in the number of stop and frisks is a strong candidate for the causal factor, particularly since the timing of the homicide spike so perfectly coincides with the spike. Regression analysis of the homicide spike and related shooting crimes identifies the stop and frisk variable as the likely cause. The results are highly statistically significant and robust over a large number of alternative specifications. And a qualitative review for possible “omitted variables” in the regression equations fails to identify any other plausible candidates that fit the data as well as the decline in stop and frisks.”

The study outlines why local policing is a fundamental part of society, stop and frisk may not be the most desireable way forward but had the ACLU not entered into a decree with the Chicago Police Department, maybe the two-hundred-plus individuals would still be alive today. While issues will always be prevalent in police work, criminals will always be criminals and in this instance the ‘ACLU effect’ granted them a greater opportunity, as is evidenced by the spike in homicides.

Works Cited

Jeremy Gorner. “ Study blames 'ACLU effect' for spike in Chicago's violence in 2016, but experts differ .” Chicago Tribune. . (2018): . .

Paul Cassell, Richard Fowles. “What Caused the 2016 Chicago Homicide Spike? An Empirical Examination of the ACLU Effect and the Role of Stop and Frisks in Preventing Gun Violence.” SSRN. . (2018): . .

Wiki. “Empirical research.” Wikipedia. . (N/A): . . Empirical research: is research using empirical evidence. It is a way of gaining knowledge by means of direct and indirect observation or experience.

Shibani Mahtani. “Navy Medics Get Prepared for Combat—With Tour of Duty in Chicago .” Wall Street Journal. . (2018): . .

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Nate BrownUniversity of Utah Recent comment authors
University of Utah
University of Utah

The following is a link to the full/ downloadable article on Professor Paul Cassell’s SSRN author page:
https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3145287