Chicago suffered 572 homicides last year and more than 2,900 shootings, and leading mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle says that lowering the violent-crime rate is a top priority. But her 15-point criminal-justice plan, “Building a Safer Chicago,” gravely misdiagnoses what’s driving crime and offers policy prescriptions that won’t make the city safer.
Preckwinkle assumes that crime in Chicago is driven by over-incarceration of individuals for “nonviolent” offenses; a lack of employment, resources, and investment on the South and West Sides; “lax gun laws in border states like Wisconsin, Indiana, and major gun hubs like Mississippi and Georgia”; and incompetence on the part of the Chicago Police Department. She’s wrong on all counts.
According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, the majority of prisoners in the state committed serious or violent felonies, not nonviolent drug offenses. Indeed, five violent-offense categories—homicide, sexual assault/rape, assault/battery, robbery, and weapons violations—account for 57.8 percent of all Illinois state prisoners, 48.1 percent of whom committed their crimes in Cook County. Only 16.1 percent of inmates were convicted of a controlled-substance violation.
Also, most shootings and homicides in Chicago are perpetrated by repeat offenders, on whom the justice system has been too lenient, not too harsh. According to a January 2017 study by the University of Chicago Crime Lab, “around 90 percent [of those arrested for a homicide or shooting in Chicago in 2015 and 2016] had at least one prior arrest.” On average, someone arrested for a homicide or shooting had “nearly 12 prior arrests, with almost 45 percent having had more than 10 prior arrests.” These alarming statistics have led Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to call for tougher penalties for repeat offenders. read more