The Big Picture



Appoints Police Superintendent

Cook County’s criminal justice system is governed by eleven offices. Eight of these are led by individuals elected by the public every four years. The other three are led by people appointed by members of the first group. The Chief Judge, who is elected by the Circuit Court Judges, also holds the power to appoint the presiding Circuit Court Judges. The County Board President appoints the Public Defender; and the Mayor of Chicago appoints the Police Superintendent.

Cook County spends about one-third of its budget on public safety. Combined with the Chicago Police Department, actual public safety expenditures—a combination of both county and municipal funds—reach more than $2.6 billion. Only small fractions of the total budget are spent on probation, public defense, prosecution, and juvenile justice.


Reported crime rate per 100 residents in 2015


Jail admissions per 1,000 residents in 2015

Both crime and incarceration rates have been dropping over the last decade, more steeply in the last five years. Both crime and jail admissions are much higher in some neighborhoods than others, but jail admissions are more concentrated in certain neighborhoods than even crime. There are two reasons for this difference. Some neighborhoods are more intensively policed than others; and property crime is more spread out than the residences of those who are incarcerated for those crimes. Compared with four other urban areas, Chicago’s crime rate is above the average and closest to Houston. Chicago’s incarceration rate is below the average and closest to Los Angeles.

Crime Rate by Neighborhood 2015: Chicago Data Portal (

Incarceration Rate by Neighborhood 2015: Justice Audit analysis of Cook County Sheriff’s Office data, 2015.

Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Index Crimes Compared 2015 | UCR Crime Trend Over Time: City-Data.Com (

Incarceration Rates Compared 2015 | Trend Over Time: Vera Institute of Justice (

When asked ‘What is the single biggest problem facing Chicago today?’ over 50% of Chicagoans identified CRIME, where none of the other choices–education, economy, city budget, shootings, corruption, and jobs–registered above 10%. Among racial and ethnic groups who identified CRIME as the biggest problem, approximately 60% of Black and Hispanic respondents identified crime, while less than 40% of White respondents identified crime.

Source: New York Times Poll of Chicago, April 21-May 3, 2016

Incarceration by home residence is even more concentrated than is crime by location. For example, 1.3% of Chicagoans live in West Englewood, while 2.9% of crime takes place there, and 4.3% of people admitted to jail live there. One reason for the difference is related to the commission of property crimes outside of home neighborhoods. Other reasons may relate to police patrol patterns and differential access to alternative and supportive community networks by residents of different neighborhoods.

Source: Justice Audit analysis of Cook County Sheriff’s Office data, 2015



Police stations and courthouses are distributed across the City and County. Each facility has different levels of personnel. The number of judges, clerks and other judicial support staff working at each location affects the average annual cases per judge, per clerk, and other staff. The number of public defenders, prosecutors, and probation officers at each affects the pace of court processing. Understanding these staffing levels can enable more efficient processing of cases.

Data about staffing and other resources at police stations and courthouses is still being collected and will be added when available. These visualizations are offered as examples of how this sort of detailed, place-based resource data can be useful to the strategic deployment of government resources.