Cheryl Corley

Across the country, we've seen massive change brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, including a dramatic drop in the overall crime rate.

David Abrams, a University of Pennsylvania law and economics professor, has been keeping an eye on numbers across the country. The website he created details what's been happening with crime in more than 25 major cities during the COVID-19 crisis.

Updated at 11:09 p.m. ET

Illinois moves into the next phase of its reopening plan on Friday.

The guidelines allow movie theaters, zoos, museums and health and fitness centers to reopen with limited capacity. Restaurants will be able to offer in-door dining and gatherings of 50 people or fewer will be permitted.

Schools and child care programs with social distancing policies in place can also reopen. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans can return to work.

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When COVID-19 first hit the United States, it spread through communities of color at alarmingly disproportionate rates.

This was especially true in Chicago. More than 70% of the city's first coronavirus deaths were among African Americans. Those numbers have declined, but black residents continue to die at a rate two to three times higher than the city's white residents. Researchers believe underlying health conditions that are prevalent in Latinx and black communities, such as hypertension and diabetes, make residents there more vulnerable to the disease.

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The fight over COVID-19 has become a legal battle in Illinois, pitting a Republican state lawmaker from a rural county against the Democratic governor.

Darren Bailey argued the state's latest stay-at-home order was taking an unfair economic toll on his constituents in Clay County. So he sued last week. And won. Sort of.

A Clay County circuit court judge issued a temporary restraining order against the state's extension of its stay-at-home policy.

That ruling only applies to one person, though — Bailey.

Cook County Jail in Chicago is one of the country's largest and it's in a fierce battle with COVID-19. The rate of infection in the jail is higher than most anywhere else in the country. More than 50o people have tested positive so far. Detainees make up nearly two-thirds of the cases and three have died from apparent complications.

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What to do with a jury summons during a pandemic? That was the question Edward Lifson faced when he opened his mail and read that he was scheduled for jury duty in Los Angeles this week. Lifson believes it's an honor and a duty to serve on a jury, but, "to be honest, I would not do it right now," he says. "If they told me I had to come in I would say no."

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Gun and ammunition sales often spike during a crisis. That's exactly what's been happening now with the cornonavirus threat. Many gun buyers say they want to be ready with protection if there's panic.

Just a few miles from the Los Angles Airport, a group of people, including families with children playing video games, lined up outside LAX Ammo in Inglewood. A store employee checks IDs and tells potential customers what caliber ammunition is in stock. Answering questions, he tells the crowd he has .45 caliber and .38 Special.

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One of the first things visitors see as they walk through the ornate ground floor of Chicago's landmark Cultural Center is a cluster of four glass houses. Each has 700 glass brick openings — a stark, physical reminder of the average number of people killed by guns each week in the country. Designers of the Gun Violence Memorial Project say just as the AIDS Memorial Quilt raised awareness about a deadly disease, they want their focus on victims of gunfire to bring widespread attention to what they consider another epidemic.

A group of registered sex offenders in Aurora, Ill. — about 40 miles outside of Chicago — could face felony charges if they don't move out of their home. The city says they live too close to a playground, which has sparked a legal fight over housing, redemption and the definition of a playground.

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Felony murder is not your average murder. Juvenile justice advocates call felony murder laws arcane and say they unfairly harm children and young adults. Prosecutors can charge them with felony murder even if they didn't kill anyone or intend to do so. What's required is the intent to commit a felony — like burglary, arson or rape — and that someone dies during the process.

Public health officials say the number of people who have died or have gotten ill after using e-cigarettes or other vaping products is rising, and they're still trying to figure out why. It's led to plenty of warnings about e-cigarettes and put a spotlight on illegal vaping operations.

Bristol, Wis., is just north of the Wisconsin-Illinois state line. In early September, law enforcement officials conducted a raid at a condo unit located in a winding subdivision of new homes and houses still under construction.

President Trump's depiction of urban life in America is often grim, and the tension between the president and big city mayors is often filled with name-calling and lawsuits. For many mayors who end up in the president's crosshairs, it's a balancing act as they try to determine how to ward off criticism, as well as Trump administration policies they think may be harmful, while not jeopardizing federal funds earmarked for city projects.

Remember those old "wanted" posters on TV Westerns? They offered rewards for handing over a person to law enforcement. In more recent times, rewards are less about bounty hunting and more about persuading people to provide information that can help solve a crime. It's an attempt to use money to overcome fear and apathy, and sometimes that can be difficult.

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Remember those old wanted posters on TV westerns offering rewards for turning in someone wanted by the police? Well, now some families of crime victims are making their own wanted posters, offering to pay the rewards themselves. NPR's Cheryl Corley has the story.

"Water, water everywhere." That line from poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge could be the mantra for rain-weary residents across the country. Some regions have seen record amounts of rain since early spring. The Mississippi River and tributaries spent months above flood stage, while all of the Great Lakes are nearly at or above historic highs.

Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of watershed hydrology for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Detroit, says data show that the Great Lakes have been on the rise for several years, especially in recent months.

In Kentucky, running away from home or constantly skipping school could get a kid locked up in a juvenile hall for days. Those acts, called status offenses, aren't serious crimes, but for years Kentucky and other states treated them as though they were.

That first brush with the juvenile justice system can often lead to more trouble if authorities focus on punishment, not the underlying reasons for the bad behavior.

But there's growing evidence that the tough approach doesn't work. Kentucky has joined many other states that are trying something different.

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For many in Latino and Black neighborhoods, trust in the Chicago Police Department simply doesn't exist. Years of policies detailed in a blistering Department of Justice report explains why.

Many hope the formal events on Friday, Mar. 1, will help restore, or in some cases establish, a sense of trust in communities that have long felt neglected or abused.

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To Chicago now and news of the sentencing of former police officer Jason Van Dyke. Van Dyke got nearly seven years in prison for killing black teenager Laquan McDonald. Here's Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan.

The recent shooting deaths of two black men by police have reignited protests about police use of force. In both cases, the men had guns and police wrongly mistook them for suspects.

On Thanksgiving night, a white police officer fatally shot 21-year-old Emantic Bradford Jr. at a mall in Hoover, Ala., a Birmingham suburb. Bradford and others were running from a shooting that left two people injured. Some witnesses said during the pandemonium that followed, some of those running away pulled out their guns for their own protection. Police later said Bradford was not an assailant.

Jury selection begins Wednesday in the murder trial for Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. The officer, who is white, is accused of killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who is black, as he walked down the middle of a city street holding a knife.

The case has come to embody many of the political and racial tensions that grip the city, and the massive distrust between communities of color and police. In fact, one protest chant has become a mantra in the case: "Sixteen shots and a cover-up."

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