When it comes to finding ways to fail spectacularly at responding to the problem of violent crime, few cities compare to Chicago. In spite of ample evidence that there are clear solutions to effectively addressing those who are most responsible for the violence plaguing our country, Chicago would apparently rather explore programs probably best described as criminal justice experimentation.
We’ve discussed the Windy City’s experience with non-traditional forms of crime deterrence, where they have tried paying former (it is hoped) criminals to use their expertise and connections with the criminal world to try to dissuade (again, it is hoped) others from engaging in illicit activity.
Other “responses” to crime include one from 2021, when, in an apparent admission that the city could not stop violent criminals, a program was implemented to install hundreds of “bleeding control kits” in public buildings throughout Chicago. We’ve also reported about Chicago Alderman Michele Smith (D-43) promoting a “crime-fighting” program where citizens are encouraged to get whistles, then blow them if they come across a “suspicious situation or witness a crime.”
At least taxpayers are not saddled with the expense of the city giving away free whistles to implement this ridiculous approach to “combatting” violent crime.
Former Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D), who consistently blamed guns rather than criminals during her one term in office, once promoted what she called “the largest gun turn-in program in Chicago’s history” in 2022. Crime, unsurprisingly, continued to rise.
Last year, voters rejected Lightfoot’s reelection bid, making her the first Chicago mayor to lose reelection in 40 years. Public safety—especially violent crime—was the dominant issue. Of course, the man who replaced Lightfoot, Brandon Johnson (D), is cut from the same progressive, anti-gun cloth as Lightfoot, so beleaguered Chicagoans have had no real reprieve in city crime trends, and there is nothing to indicate that will change any time soon.
Arguably one of the worst policies Chicago, as well as the entire state of Illinois, adopted is the highly criticized practice of no-cash bail. Catching violent criminals with extensive criminal records—sometimes in the act of committing actual crimes—then releasing them to the streets on the promise that they will return for their court date seems like sheer lunacy. And expecting them to not continue committing crimes while awaiting trial is the apex of absurdity.
In fact, CWB Chicago, a local news source for tracking crime, keeps a running tally of “individuals accused of killing, shooting, or trying to kill or shoot others while on bond for a pending felony case.”
One entry from last year featured an incident where a Cook County prosecutor narrowly escaped injury in a drive-by shooting in which she was not the intended target. The accused gunman was a convicted felon who, at the time, was out on bail on a pending charge of unlawful possession of a machine gun. (The article notes that the accused “participates in a non-violence program.”) Convicted felons are prohibited under federal law from possessing any firearm, and possession of machine guns is separately and specifically restricted under the National Firearms Act.
CWB Chicago posted another report the same day about an accused man armed with a gun who threatened to kill a woman in a carjacking. At the time, he “was on bail for another armed carjacking case and on probation for a felony gun case,” with active warrants for both because he failed to appear for his court dates.
These two cases, it should be pointed out, involved individuals who were released to await trial after actually having to post bail/bond, before the no-cash bail policy was fully implemented. Even with money on the line to stay out of trouble until their trial date, they could not resist the “allure” of continuing their criminal ways.
Now Chicago and Illinois don’t even require any financial commitment for release and abiding by the law.
More recently, CWB Chicago pointed out that the added “restriction” of electronic monitoring of those released without bail means nothing to criminals; although that really shouldn’t surprise anyone. The article mentions two examples of individuals who had been released while awaiting trial for serious crimes, were subject to restrictions on their day-to-day activities (a modified “house arrest”) that came with the “control” of electronic monitoring, and were subsequently found in violation of the terms of their release.
Oh, and both were allegedly in possession of firearms at the time they were found violating their terms of release.
And while electronic monitoring is obviously no substitute for incarceration, as these two miscreants show, one would think that Chicago would at least go through the motions of trying to appear to take the job of criminal justice seriously by increasing the practice under the no-cash bail policy. But as CWB Chicago points out, last November 30, there were roughly 1,700 individuals subject to Cook County sheriff’s department ankle monitors, which was the lowest number since 2014.
Chicago, sadly, shows no signs of turning around its problem of rampant crime. The politicians in charge seem unlikely to accept the failures of their policies and start implementing proven crime-fighting practices, and the voters seem equally unlikely to wake up and end the insanity of electing soft-on-crime mayors and district attorneys. At some point, however, something will have to change. Otherwise, Chicago may slip into the realm of dystopian nightmare once only imagined in books or on screen.