“There is a general sense out there that our city is in crisis,” McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said in joining the chorus of Windy City executives denouncing its rising crime rates. University of Chicago Professor Casey Mulligan backed up Kempczinski’s remarks: “Why hasn’t the [UChicago] President said this?”
In Kempczinski’s Wednesday speech to the Economic Club of Chicago, he highlighted the Windy City’s sobering public safety challenges. “We have violent crime that is happening in our restaurants,” he remarked. “[W]e are seeing homelessness issues in restaurants, we are having drug overdoses that are happening in our restaurants.”
Kempczinski’s sample size is not insignificant—McDonald’s has 400 franchisees in Chicagoland and employs 200,000 residents—and his observations match the empirical evidence. Chicago saw a 38% rise in violent and property crime between 2021 and 2022. And over the past four weeks, total crime complaints are up 47%. Thefts, robberies, and burglaries led that charge while murder rates and sex offenses decreased.
In Recent Months, Radio Silence from UChicago
UChicago is no stranger to violent criminals, who have terrorized Hyde Park and murdered the school’s students and affiliates. In August 2020, Jackie Jackson—owner of the local ice cream store Kilwins—recalled the trauma that looters inflicted against her and another businessperson in the area. Dennis Zheng’s murder in November 2021 led students, professors, and parents to protest on the Main Quadrangle, calling for authorities to take further action to bolster safety around the area. More recently, in August, student Sanjay Srivatsan told Fox News he chooses to stay on campus rather than “take unnecessary risks.”
Nonetheless, UChicago’s Department of Safety and Security last released a safety update in May. The department then highlighted Kyle Bowman, the new chief of police of the UChicago Police Department, and the expansion of a program that supplies students with Lyft rides at no additional cost.
Since the start of May, UChicago President Paul Alivisatos has posted just two announcements remotely related to Hyde Park bloodshed—both of which he released in conjunction with the provost. They announced, in May, a “diverse” “Public Safety Advisory Council” and, in July, a $15 million “Violence Intervention Fund” aimed toward the South Side community.
Will McDonald’s Go Down South?
McDonald’s relocated its headquarters from suburban Oak Brook to Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood in 2018, and it claims an estimated $2 billion in economic contributions to the Windy City. But Kempczinski warned Chicago not to take his company’s business for granted, naming the three big firms that have recently packed their bags.
“I’ve heard some people discount Boeing’s departure, Caterpillar’s departure, Citadel’s departure,” Kempczinski told the Economic Club of Chicago in an apparent jab against Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker, both Democrats. “Make no mistake. . . McDonald’s commitment to Chicago is not corporate altruism. . . It’s not open-ended, it’s not unconditional.”
Kempczinski’s warning follows Citadel CEO Ken Griffin’s June announcement that the company will relocate its headquarters to Miami. A prolific donor of over $600 million to the Chicagoland area, Griffin has notably allocated his wealth toward UChicago’s Department of Economics as well as revamped lanes for Chicago’s 18-mile lakefront trail. Griffin cited crime as one of his reasons for Citadel’s departure, recounting multiple colleagues whom criminals mugged at gunpoint, stabbed, or burglarized.
Griffin, in turn, followed in the footsteps of Boeing and Caterpillar. The former called Illinois home for over two decades before announcing its move to Virginia, and the latter is forsaking its ninety-year history with the Prairie State for the Irving, Texas, sun.
Illinois crime may get worse before it gets better. The SAFE-T Act, which Governor Pritzker signed in early 2021, seeks to abolish the state’s cash-bail system by 2023. Both Democrats and Republicans have criticized the legislation on the grounds that it could diminish public safety.