Police say a home invasion in Chicago on Friday targeted two 76-year-old women, her 70-year-old husband and five grandchildren by striking them in the head with a barbell-like object and stealing a large sum of money.
“The elderly residents appear to have been targeted. This is a despicable, cowardly act,” Chicago police told the Chicago Tribune.
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But home invasions, a “smash-and-grab” hold-up and unarmed hold-ups are all becoming so common that the overall crime rate seems to be on the rise, which raises even more question over why residents appear to be so at risk when prosecutors in some parts of the country are fine with letting the defendants walk.
Chicago, which has a public prosecutor office explicitly intended to protect families from violent criminals, has very little at stake as other parts of the country do not. Despite violent crime in Chicago being six times higher than the national average, crime is dramatically lower than in other places. So why is this?
As evidenced by the arrest of a man in Florida recently who jumped a barricade of cyclists and injured one with an ax, aggravated assaults are on the rise.
According to Bicycling magazine, attacks are increasing nationwide. They’ve gone up 75 percent from 1985 to 2015. Some groups blame the rise of bicycles as a type of transportation.
“The greater availability of bicycles has meant fewer roadways, and therefore longer distances between each bike, which makes it more difficult for a criminal to commit an assault,” the magazine reported.
In the 1980s, annual bike commute trips were roughly 1.1 million. In 2013, they topped six million, The New York Times reported.
“For decades, bike commuting has been growing in significance,” University of Toronto researchers Nell McDonald and Angela Safin wrote in a 2015 piece published in the university’s Journal of Urban Health.
Bicycling magazine’s “Cars vs. Bikes” report found that more cars now pass through American cities daily than bicyclists do.
In a 2014 study published in the journal Criminology, however, researchers wrote about the rise of crimes associated with bicycles, including, “as might be expected, bike theft and bicycle vandalism”.
“More important, however, might be bike theft and bicycle vandalism of property – including property targeted by bikes – such as bike racks, bike handles, locks, and bike barns”, the study wrote.
“Overall, data suggest that the incidence of bicycle-related crimes increased 1.5-2.5 times between 1984 and 2005, similar to most U.S. cities.”
For street races and mugging to be commonplace, this just shows how connected and interrelated we all are. At a time when people fear pervasive poverty and violence, one in seven US adults were homeless in 2015, the United Nations found. “Violence is hurting families who need education and jobs,” the UN said in a 2016 report.
Then there are the more mundane things, like gun violence. “Chicago police reported firearms-related homicides up 25% from 2015 through 2016, shooting incidents up 18%, and total gun-related crimes up 17 percent, led by a 46 percent rise in aggravated battery,” the Chicago Tribune reported.
“We’ve seen gang member offenders that have gone out of state shooting people they find,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told the Tribune. “They’re coming back.”
In Arlington Heights, Illinois, the shopping district east of the Empire State Building has seen about 20 armed robberies by cabbies and other vehicles since 2013, reports to the Tribune.
“I think they see that they can intimidate and hurt somebody else,” Investigator Paul Louchheim told the Tribune.
In many cities, the plea bargain system for misdemeanours has ballooned. Many offenders with minor traffic offenses will receive little or no jail time.
Proving felony charges in some areas in Illinois has been near impossible because of lax prosecution in recent years, with only one law-enforcement officer checking on a suspected felon living in the state during his incarceration, Alysse Marquez and Mitzi McKinney reported in the Chicago Tribune.
One former prosecutor in Cook County, Illinois, who spoke to Marquez and McKinney, said he noticed there were “no felony [charges] coming from his office”.
Fatalism is part of American culture. Maybe people say, “if it wasn’t for the system, I would not have been so fortunate in life”. Some in the US defend leniency as a way to take care of addicts, runaways, victims of sexual assault and others.
There has long been a gun culture in the US. There have also been violent home invasions, and