Xerox Engineers Claim Drop in Chicago Crime Rate Due To Unclogged Printers


Xerox engineers are taking credit for a drop in the crime rate in Chicago during the mid 1990s. According to the engineers, their technology to resolve paper jams helped Chicago's criminal justice system put offenders behind bars.

By reducing paper jams, Xerox says that lawyers were able to get work done more efficiently and helped them meet deadlines.

Paper Problem

In a piece for The New Yorker, Xerox engineers show how they were able to help the Chicago defense attorneys meet deadlines with new printers. John Viavattine, head of Xerox's Media Technology Center, claims that two-thirds of offenders were being released because of paper jams in the court system.

Viavattine tells a story about helping the Chicago court system in the '90s. He visited the Chicago children's court.

"What was happening was, lawyers had to deliver certain court documents to the defense attorneys within a certain amount of time" said Vivattine to The New Yorker. "Otherwise, the defendant was let go. And they were losing two out of three cases because of paper jams."

This was all due to the quality of the paper. Viavattine cites the poor quality of the paper that the court system was using at the time. Earlier in the piece Viavattine describes how different weather affects paper. Paper jams are also more common during the winter than the summer time.

"That two out of three times they would be late, and the defendant would be released!" said Viavattine. "And the problem was that they were using some off-brand, really down-in-the-dumps paper."

Drop In Crime

Xerox is taking credit for a policing situation. A decline in the Chicago's crime rate in the '90s occurred when the police began going after gang leadership in the city. Violent crime dropped in the city, with murder rates going down from 934 in 1993 to 599 in 2003.

During the drop in the '90s, Arthur Lurigio from Loyola University gave the Chicago Tribune some of the reasons the murder rate dropped in the city.

"Murders are at a 20-year low in Los Angeles, a 30-year low in New York. Killings are down in many large cities. There are numerous factors that can be attributed to the decreases in crime," said Lurigio in 1997 to the Chicago Tribune. "A better economy, improved policing, fewer young adults, citizens' increased awareness and a feeling of greater empowerment to get involved with the police to control crime in their neighborhood."

Chicago is currently the most dangerous city in the country when it comes to the murder rate. Last year, Chicago's murder rate was 650, a drop from the previous year but still higher than other major cities. New York City's murder rate was 290 in 2017. 

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