Our once-safe community is one of America’s most dangerous cities – even more dangerous than Chicago, new 2023 studies say.
House Grail 2023 Study: Springfield is “2nd most dangerous city” in Illinois, Chicago 11th
Property Club 2023 Study: Springfield has 55% more violent crime than Chicago
WGN News: Springfield is one of the 50 most dangerous cities in US
Editor’s Note: Springfield Uncovered is a multi-part series taking a sober, honest look at the state of Springfield, detailing how crime, job and population loss, high taxes, and poor leadership have led our city to historic lows – and how our community can come together to build a better future. Below is part one on crime.
Springfield has long been known around the country and the globe for one thing: Abraham Lincoln. Our vibrant, durable little city has punched above its weight by creating America’s greatest president – but we’ve also been well known in the past for serving as the center of government for one the country’s best states and being the home of global businesses like Bunn, Horace Mann, and Brandt.
All the while, over all these years since Lincoln, Springfield has been known as a safe place to raise a family, earn a good living, and build a bright future. It’s one of the reasons why generations of children and grandchildren have moved back to Springfield long after they stopped returning to rural areas and small cities across the country. And it’s one of the reasons why Springfield natives often boasted about their hometown (and still do) as other Central Illinois cities like Decatur and Danville experienced population decline, disinvestment, and the ensuing increased crime.
But the sad truth is that things have changed. More and more, our city is known for its extraordinary crime, even more than Honest Abe. Springfield is now not all that different from other cities lacking opportunity and replete with high crime.
Think that’s hyperbole? Look at the statistics.
Springfield is one of three metro areas in Illinois to rank among the country’s most dangerous cities, according to a report by WGN News. Springfield is 122% more dangerous than the average American city, and the study cited specifically noted Springfield’s 14.1% increase in violent crime in the previous year.
The honest truth is that Springfield is no longer known as a relatively quiet, safe place to raise a family, a refuge from bigger cities. In fact, in the report by the Chicago-based WGN News, Springfield was profiled in the list of dangerous cities – and Chicago didn’t even make the list.
A Chicago news station reported that Springfield led a list of dangerous cities, and Chicago wasn’t included. Let that sink in.
According to one study of crime and poverty, Springfield’s poverty rate is an astounding 20%, which is the same poverty rate listed for Chicago. That no doubt explains at least in part why crime is notably on the rise in both cities.
Digging into the details, the stats on Springfield crime are worse than most people realize, and it’s getting worse.
Based on statistics released by the Springfield Police Department, Springfield has a two-fold problem: crime is increasing in prevalence and seriousness, and crime is spreading throughout the city.
Crime increased overall from 2021 to 2022 – with even more concerning increases in motor vehicle theft (52.82%), stolen property offenses (39.06%), and burglary / breaking & entering (10.28%). And already in 2023, the statistics are headed in the wrong direction with a notable 7.57% increase in crime since January 2022, including dramatic increases in crimes against persons (8.84%) and crimes against property (9.56%).
Crime is also occurring in areas of the city long considered safe – and it’s occurring during the day or early in the evening with more regularity.
A few examples tell the story and would be downright terrifying to most Springfield residents, that is if the numbers and incidents were widely known or consistently reported.
According to Springfield Police statistics, a burglary to a commercial restaurant occurred at the corner of Wabash Avenue and White Oaks Drive on Springfield’s west side at 10:00AM on a Thursday. The location is a very popular breakfast and lunchtime meeting spot for retirees who live on the west side of town, and if they knew about it, they likely wouldn’t feel comfortable spending their time at a business that is the target of violent crime. To say the least, that’s not a great way for a city to keep its older residents from moving permanently to Florida.
And unfortunately, the increase in crime is not confined to one business or one area of the city.
On a Tuesday night as the sun was going down at 5:54PM, Springfield police reported an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon steps away from the Springfield Bible Church in the Westchester neighborhood on the west side. Bright-eyed teens may have been walking past to get to church youth group as the violent crime was being committed. When something like that happens, there’s no doubt parents will think twice about allowing their children to even attend church, let alone allowing them to go to the movies or get iced cream with their friends at a local business.
These specific examples are not unique.
At least 10 burglaries and aggravated assaults or batteries (oftentimes with a deadly weapon) occurred on the west side of Springfield in February. Similarly, at least five burglaries and aggravated assault or batteries (again, sometimes with a deadly weapon) have occurred in the last month in the residential or commercial areas near Lake Springfield and Toronto Road.
That’s in part why Springfield crime statistics went up in January, and although they haven’t been released for February, it’s almost certain that crime increased in February as well. These areas have not been known for crime in the past, and their incidence in new locations does not mean that crime is decreasing in areas more typically known for high crime. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The reality is that increased crime is not unique to Springfield as crime is rising everywhere in this country. But it hits home when it occurs in neighborhoods once-considered safe.
It’s a sad truth that crime in Springfield is on the rise just like Chicago, which has been known for decades for high crime but only recently has seen an extraordinary rise in car-jackings, robberies, and burglaries in popular tourist spots and wealthy enclaves on the north side of the city.
Unlike Springfield to this point, the rise of violent crime in Chicago is having some profound effects. Chicago’s mayor Lori Lightfoot made headlines around the country for faring so poorly in her reelection campaign that she didn’t even make a run-off with the top two contenders. According to CNN, it was due to “growing concerns about crime” in America’s third-largest city. Chicago residents were reportedly “rattled” by violence in 2020 and 2021, even though shootings and murders have actually decreased in Chicago since that time.
Unlike Chicago, crime in Springfield has increased in recent years. The statistics from our own police department tell the story of higher crime, let alone the national surveys and studies that increasingly include Springfield on the list of most dangerous cities.
Chicago residents did the unthinkable and sent its one-term mayor packing without even allowing her an opportunity to compete in a run-off election. Chicago may surprise the world again by electing someone (Paul Vallas) who ran on a platform to address rising crime.
Time will tell if rising crime rates have a similar effect in Springfield and whether residents in our city start to demand changes in our community and from our leaders.