With 79 people shot over the July 4th weekend, fifteen of them fatally, the city of Chicago is nearing a grim milestone. As of Monday morning, the city has seen 344 homicides this year, and is on pace to exceed the 490 homicides reported by the Chicago Police Department in 2019.
Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot had big plans for this weekend; police were going to sweep up drug dealers and street corner criminals before the holiday, keeping them in jail and away from the public in an attempt to stop the increasing violence. Lightfoot declared that many of the low-level gang members would be safer behind bars, and are being exploited by older, more senior gang members, though not everyone was on board with the idea, as the Chicago Sun-Times pointed out last week.
“Those gangs — they’re not out on the street. They’re reaping the bounty, but they’re putting these kids out on the street to do their dirty work. Kids who have a future. Kids who have a life,” the mayor said.
“We’ve got to stop that from happening. And that means going up the food chain and getting the adults responsible for these heinous crimes and putting them behind bars. That’s what the superintendent was talking about.”
Karen Sheley, director of the police practices project at the ACLU of Illinois, condemned the plans for preemptive sweeps as “more of the same” from a Chicago Police Department that missed 70 percent of the deadlines to comply with mandates in the consent decree triggered by the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.
“The plan to sweep up Black and Brown young men in their neighborhoods across the City could have been uttered by a number of his predecessors in leadership of the CPD. We have heard this all before — paternalistic claims that young men should be in jail for their own safety,” Sheley was quoted as saying in a statement.
The strategy doesn’t seem to have been too effective. with dozens of shootings reported across the city and several children killed in the crossfire of gang violence. Now the mayor is once again blaming the city’s horrible homicide rate on guns, not the gang members illegally using them. Over the weekend, Lightfoot said that there are simply too many guns on the streets, when the real issue seems to be that Chicago’s criminals believe that they can engage in gunfights, carjackings, and other violent crimes without any consequences.
As long as Mayor Lightfoot is content to blame the city’s spike in shootings on inanimate objects instead of the flesh-and-blood human beings pulling the triggers, the city is going to continue to struggle to get a handle on the violence. Lightfoot was closer to the target last week when she had tough words for gang leaders, but words are all she’s offering at a moment when the city needs to actually crack down on violent offenders instead of demanding yet another gun control law in Illinois.