Publications

Capitalizing on Crisis: Chicago Police Responses to Homicide Waves 1920-2016

Robert Vargas, Chris Williams, Philip O’Sullivan, and Christina Cano

Abstract
This Essay investigates Chicago city-government policy responses to the four largest homicide waves in its history: 1920–1925, 1966–1970, 1987–1992, and 2016. Through spatial and historical methods, we discover that Chicago police and the mayor’s office misused data to advance agendas conceived prior to the start of the homicide waves. Specifically, in collaboration with mayors, the Chicago Police Department leveraged its monopoly over crime data to influence public narratives over homicide in ways that repeatedly (1) delegitimized Black social movements, (2) expanded policing, (3) framed homicide as an individual rather than systemic problem, and (4) exclusively credited police for homicide rate decreases. These findings suggest that efforts to improve violence-prevention policy in Chicago require not only a science of prevention and community flourishing but also efforts to democratize how the city uses data to define and explain homicide.

Citation
Vargas, Robert, Chris Williams, Philip O’Sullivan, and Christina Cano. 2022.
"Capitalizing on Crisis: Chicago Police Responses to Homicide Waves 1920-2020.” University of Chicago Law Review 89(2):405-439.

The Racial and Economic Foundations of Municipal Redistricting

Robert Vargas, Christina Cano, Paola Del Toro, and Brian Fenaughty

Abstract
How do local governments resist internal pressure for social change? This study explores this question by examining the role of redistricting. Using digitized ward maps from Chicago, Milwaukee, and St Louis from the 1800s to the present, this study applied mixed methods to systematically explore and understand the movement of districts over time. We discovered that local governments used redistricting for racially and economically motivated social control. Specifically, findings illuminated four practices aimed at regulating or resisting elected officials advocating for racial justice or equity: 1) suppressive redistricting, 2) disciplinary redistricting, 3) remunerative redistricting, and 4) transactional redistricting. These findings advance theories of racialized space and the racialized state by uncovering additional ways that governments regulate or suppress movements for racial equity or justice from within.

Citation
Vargas, Robert, Christina Cano, Paola Del Toro, and Brian Fenaughty. 2021. “The Racial and Economic Foundations of Municipal Redistricting.”
Social Problems. Online: https://doi.org/10.1093/socpro/spab076.

Untouchable Communities: How Urbanization Protects Communities from Gerrymandering [Working Paper]

Robert Vargas, Ariel Azar, Sherry Zhang, Paola Del Toro, Christina Cano, and Chris Williams

Citation
Vargas, Robert and et al. "Untouchable Communities: How Urbanization Protects Communities from Gerrymandering." [Working Paper]