Art Golab, Chicago Sun-Times, June 4, 2014
Criminals are sports fans too.
That’s one of the theories behind research showing that on Monday nights when the Bears play, crime in Chicago drops 13 percent on average.
Crime also fell 7 percent on average during Cubs or White Sox playoff games and by 2 percent during Bulls televised playoffs, according to a working paper by two doctoral candidates at the University of California, Berkeley, Law School.
Looking at Chicago’s minute-by-minute crime reports, Ryan Copus and Hannah Laqueur found that the biggest drop in Chicago crime during a sporting event–26 percent–happens during the Super Bowl.
Officer Michael Garza, a Chicago cop for 21 years, doesn’t have a Ph.D, but he’s noticed the same thing.
“When the Bears made the playoffs once, I was out there on the street and nobody else was there,” said Garza, who works in the 4th District. No matter what the neighborhood, he said, “Crime drops during major events like playoffs. People like their sports.”
But Copus and Laqueur have figured out a way to measure just how much people like their sports.
Whether it’s the Super Bowl, a Bears Monday night game or Major League Baseball or NBA playoff–if it’s on TV, Copus and Laqueur say crime drops in Chicago. They said it’s because crooks are glued to their couches watching the game like the rest of us. So they can’t be outside causing trouble.
Copus and Laqueur looked at different categories of crime–violent, property, drug and other–and found significant drops across the board. But might the fact that cops are sports fans, too, account for some of the declines?
The researchers say yes. A steeper drop in drug crime–63 percent during the Super Bowl and 29 percent during Bears’ Monday Night Football appearances–could be explained by the fact that police have more discretion in making drug arrests.
Copus and Laqueur hope their work helps change the conversation about media and violence. Most research so far has focused on whether violence in video games, movies and TV makes people more violent in real life.
The researchers don’t take sides in that debate, but instead argue that at least while people are viewing such media, they are not in a position to hurt society.