In a press conference late last month, Chicago’s progressive new mayor, Brandon Johnson, shifted the blame for the crime epidemic and migrant crisis plaguing his city on his predecessor, Lori Lightfoot (another Democrat), and on “right-wing extremism.”
To be sure, Lightfoot’s tenure as mayor was marked by spiraling crime rates “stunning even by hardened big-city standards.” Chicago Police Department (CPD) statistics from early this year showed reported crime overall was already up by 55% as compared to the same time in 2022, and every major crime category tracked by the CPD, with the exception of murder and “shooting incidents,” showed double- or even triple-digit increases over the last two years. Vehicle thefts had skyrocketed, accelerating by an incredible 255% between 2021 and 2023.
Dealing with runaway crime and violence remain significant challenges for the new mayor, who assumed office in May. Although the most recently available year-on-year crime statistics (CompStat, Week 48) from the CPD show some good news (murder is down by 12%), overall violent crime has increased by 19% this year compared to last, and by an astounding 68% as compared to 2021.
In an approach even more novel than deflecting responsibility onto bureaucratic predecessors and “the far Right,” Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) has apparently opted for a strategy of complete interpretive license. One article quotes Pritzker as saying, “Violent crime has been coming down [in Chicago], actually for three years, but in particular over the last year.”
Perhaps he is reading the graphs upside down. According to the latest CompStat figures, a historical comparison between 2022 and 2023 shows increases in almost every listed crime category except for murder and “shooting incidents” (and burglaries currently are just one percent lower than the 2022 level). The story isn’t better three years back, as overall violent crime has risen by 67% between 2020 and 2023. Although reported murders, shooting incidents and burglaries have decreased from 2020 figures, robberies have increased by 38%, criminal sexual assaults by 29%, and motor vehicle thefts are more than 200% over what they were three years ago. As the article notes, pinpoint statistics for some specific districts in Chicago are even more dismal: overall violent crime in one City district, District 25, has escalated by 83% since 2020, including a 26% increase in murders.
A random scroll through the website of CWBChicago, which reports on Chicago crimes, statistics, and trends (citywide and by neighborhood) offers a more vivid illustration of public safety in the Windy City. In just the last week or so of November, the headlines include, “15-year-old robbed 11 people in 5-hour crime spree, Chicago police say,” “Hours-long crosstown robbery spree ends with victim shot Friday night, Chicago police say,” “Robbery crew committed 12 holdups in an hour on Thanksgiving morning, Chicago police say,” and “Drive-by gunman shoots 5 people leaving concert at United Center.”
Responding to Pritzker’s refusal to acknowledge the problem, the good folks at CWB Chicago ask, understandably, “What is our governor smoking?”
Unfortunately, there is reason to believe that not much will change for Chicago’s residents anytime soon.
The U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on November 28 on the “gun violence epidemic.” One of the witnesses testifying before the committee was Steven H. Cook, a former police officer, federal prosecutor and now retired Associate Deputy Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice. Some of the factors he identified as contributing to the rise in violent crime across America were the “national anti-police protests and calls to defund the police” that resulted in “de-policing” (the “reduction in proactive discretionary policing”) and “soft on crime” progressive prosecutors who refuse to enforce the laws and promote lenient bail reforms.
Chicago’s new mayor has been described as “a far-left activist” backed, among others, by the Democratic Socialists of America, who was “an outspoken advocate of the defund-the-police movement.” Soros-backed Kim Foxx, Chicago’s chief prosecutor since 2016, has embraced progressive “de-prosecution” strategies like dropping felony cases and declining to prosecute misdemeanors, while allegedly claiming that violent crime rates have dropped since she took office.
What none of these officials are prepared to admit is that the violent crime problem can be attributed to the detrimental effects of their pro-criminal, anti-victim policies, including gun-control laws that restrict the rights of responsible citizens. According to gun-control group Giffords, A minus-rated Illinois “has some of the strongest gun laws in the country.”
Not everyone is as enthralled by the benefits of progressivism. At the November 28 hearing, in an exchange with a public health official testifying before the committee, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) brought up the Windy City. “Let me ask you this,” Kennedy began. “Why do you think that Chicago has become America’s largest outdoor shooting range? Do you think it’s because of Chicago citizens, who have no criminal record, but who have, lawfully, a gun in their homes for protection, or perhaps for hunting? Or do you think it’s because of a finite group of criminals who have rap sheets as long as King Kong’s arm?”