After more than two months of politically-motivated violence in addition to a sharp increase in street crime, Chicago residents seem to be increasingly fed up with the lackluster response from city officials. That’s certainly true of the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune, which launched a broadside aimed squarely at Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Police Superintendent David Brown, and Cook County Prosecutor Kim Foxx on Monday, accusing the officials of not doing nearly enough to crime under control. In the wake of widespread looting and violence late Sunday night and early Monday morning, the paper says the city is failing to protect residents.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, police Superintendent David Brown and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx seemed to agree that the looting erupted in a coordinated effort with no fear of consequences. It was not connected to a demonstration to honor George Floyd, protest police brutality or support Black Lives Matter. It was an inexcusable crime spree, they said.
Yeah? No kidding. We all saw it.
What is really going on here? Our elected officials admit to a growing sense of lawlessness. The looters knew they had an opportunity to pillage because of a stand-down posture from police who get little and only late support from Lightfoot; because of a stand-down posture from Foxx, whose prosecutors brushed aside “smash and grab” long before Sunday; and because of a stand-down position from judges experimenting with bail reform.
As the Tribune correctly notes, the conditions that have led to the increased violence in Chicago didn’t develop overnight. In fact, the paper called out Kim Foxx specifically for the large number of felony cases that her office has dismissed in recent years.
The Tribune reported Monday morning, coincidentally after months of reporting, that during Foxx’s first three years as state’s attorney, prosecutors dropped all charges against 29.9% of felony defendants. The higher rate of dropped cases compared to her predecessor, Anita Alvarez, included those accused of shootings, murder, sex crimes and attacks on police. Foxx’s office dropped 1 out of every 4 cases considered serious Class X drug cases, the Tribune reported.
Among the greatest disparities between Foxx and Alvarez was for defendants charged with felony escape, which typically refers to someone destroying an electronic monitoring bracelet. Foxx during her first three years dropped 429 cases of felony escape compared with Alvarez who dropped 55.
This soft-on-crime approach may win Foxx accolades from wealthy donors and activists on the Left, but it doesn’t seem to have made Chicago any safer. Now the city’s at a breaking point, according to the Tribune‘s editors.
So you can listen to the words of the politicians. You can look at the conflicting data. And you can sweep aside both and assess the situation outright: chaos. Lawlessness. A city forced to raise its drawbridges to protect residents and businesses. Perception is reality in Chicago, and the perception is that this is not a safe city — anywhere. The long-term damage of that reputation is incalculable.
It’s not just the reputational damage that the paper’s editors should be worried about. Chaos and lawlessness is bad for attracting new businesses and tourism, but it’s even worse for the residents of high crime neighborhoods, who suffer even more when police resources have to be diverted to protect retailers from looting instead of patrolling in those high crime hot spots. Chicago’s leadership is failing, and as a result the city is failing as well.