Burn, Baby, Burn: Arsons Up 58% In Chicago This Year

We’ve regularly reported on the increase in gunfire in Chicago this year, where homicides are up by almost 50% compared to 2019 and non-fatal shootings have increased by 58% as well. As it turns out, these aren’t the only crimes that are surging in the Windy City. The website Block Club Chicago reports that arson cases are surging as well, with 477 cases reported in 2020 compared to 302 cases in all of 2019.

Even worse, the Chicago police may be underreporting the actual number of arsons by classifying some cases as accidental fires. That was the case for Derrick and Vicki Fleming, who watched their cars go up in flames on October 24th after a neighbor alerted them by banging on their apartment door early that morning.

The Flemings rushed to the back of their Logan Square building, where both of their cars were parked, and were greeted by flames. A neighbor would later tell the Flemings he saw a man holding a gas can nearby before the fire erupted.

“You see your vehicle in a big ball of fire and you just can’t imagine it. It’s like, ‘Am I dreaming?’” Vicky Fleming said.

Despite the fact that a neighbor saw a man with a gas can standing near the Flemings’ vehicles and surveillance footage showed a car pulling into the alley shortly before the fire started and leaving shortly after the flames became visible, police ultimately decided that they would investigate the case as an accidental fire.

“If they can pass this off as something else, they probably will do that because it’s less work for them,” Vicky Fleming said. “We pay all of these taxes to live in the city … . It’s frustrating to me.”

Block Club’s data analysis shows police have only made 26 arrests this year out of the 477 arsons reported in city data.

Police officials disputed that number and said they’ve made 43 arrests. That’s a 59 percent increase in arrests compared to last year, but it still means about 91 percent of arson cases this year are so far unsolved.

According to Block Club Chicago, about a third of the cases that are being investigated as arson involve vehicles being set ablaze, which is far higher than in previous years. Add in cases like the Flemings, whose cars were destroyed but in an “accident,” and the problem is even worse.

Many Chicago residents don’t feel safe in their city, and for good reason. Despite all of the gun control laws in place in Chicago, Cook County, and the state of Illinois, crime is soaring, few arrests are being made, and city leaders like Mayor Lori Lightfoot are more interested in making viral videos than putting out the figurative and literal fires raging across Chicago.

Vicky Fleming said they’ve been talking about leaving Logan Square for a while, but losing their cars was the final straw: They’re either going to move Downtown or to the suburbs.

“It’s time to go. You have to feel safe where you live,” Vicky Fleming said.

The Flemings aren’t the first to leave, and they won’t be the last. Chicago’s actually been losing residents for the past four years, and expect that trend to accelerate given the feckless response to the increasing lawlessness by anti-gun and soft-on-crime politicians who don’t want you to be able to protect yourself or your property and refuse to commit the resources necessary to ensure the safety of the public.