After more than five years in office, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is finally looking beyond his city’s gun control laws to stop the out-of-control violence in the Windy City. After promising in 2011 to hire a thousand new police when he first ran for office, Mayor Emanuel has announced plans to recruit hundreds of new officers to address the city’s dire personnel shortage.
Chicago officials have also begun to admit that the recent spike in homicides is a crime problem – not a gun problem. Just this week, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson acknowledged that “as long as we fail to hold violent repeat offenders responsible for their actions, we're going to hear the same stories of murders and shootings in certain parts of our city.”
Johnson blamed Chicago’s broken justice system. “It's frustrating for [Chicago police] to arrest a guy on Friday for an illegal gun and then the next Thursday they see him right back out on the street with another illegal gun.” A police spokesman echoed Johnson’s frustration: “with nearly half of those we arrest for murder being repeated gun offenders, we need help to ensure these individuals stay off our streets after repeated arrests for guns.”
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez made a similar acknowledgment last week: “Criminals know and understand our system” and “tell prosecutors that Illinois gun laws are ‘a joke.’” She noted that the worst offenders “are spending fewer and fewer days behind bars for their violent and repeat felony gun offenses,” and that “an unexplained revolving door” is “spitting these convicted criminals out of prison after they have served only a fraction of their court-imposed sentences for violent gun offenses.”
The problem is exacerbated by a new policy the Chicago Police implemented through an agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. The policy, which took effect on January 1st, requires officers to write a detailed report every time they stop a suspect for a brief investigation. This not only requires time-intensive paperwork, but suspects must also get a receipt indicating the officer’s name, and the time, place, and reason for the stop.
Under the new policy, street stops by Chicago police officers have dropped significantly. Less enforcement combined with weak punishment for violent offenders are driving Chicago’s surging murder rate. Perhaps the seriousness of Chicago’s soaring violent crime problem will cause the city’s leaders to abandon their pursuit of ineffective gun-control measures and instead focus on the actual cause of crime: criminals.