Chicago business leaders have become particularly concerned about the impact of the increase in violent crime after hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin said the situation might lead him to relocate the corporate headquarters of his investment firm, Citadel, NBC News reported on Sunday.
If Griffin follows through on his threat, the Fortune 500 company would be the largest to leave the Windy City.
Illinois Retail Merchants Association president Rob Karr said that crime is a top concern for all stores and merchants, with some businesses having already have left Chicago in the past year.
Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce president Jack Lavin added that companies interested in bringing business to Chicago have been asking about crime.
Business leaders say that maintaining the viability of Chicago’s central business district downtown is crucial to citywide operations, with about one-third of all city employees working there.
“This is a key economic engine for the city of Chicago and the gateway to the city where tourists come and where companies think of locating headquarters,” Lavin said. “We need to make it safe and that people can trust in public safety.”
There have been about 2,600 shootings this year in Chicago, an increase of 10% from the same time last year, according to Chicago Police Department data.
Carjackings are also up to 1,293 this year as compared to 939 this time last year. In addition, the number of sexual assaults is also higher.
"It's a disturbing increase in areas of the city that typically didn't experience it," said City Alderman Brian Hopkins. "I think everyone agrees we have a serious crime problem, and it's getting worse."
If the crime rate doesn't slow down, city officials are concerned that businesses may flee, in addition to losing the attraction that helps convince outsiders to move to the city.
“The perception out there is that Chicago streets are basically lawless,” City Alderman Raymond said. “That perception hurts us, not only with our main economic drivers of tourism and conventions, but also with restaurants and stores."
Several downtown developers are finding it difficult to market properties, because violence has spread throughout the city, giving it a negative reputation, Hopkins said.
He added that “We were in the midst of a post-pandemic recovery downtown and starting to see shoppers return, and office vacancies were finally starting to go down and right at that moment we started to see crime. If crime continues to increase, I think you'll start to see the economic recovery stall.”
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