Things That Matter

Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot Has Overseen A Huge Drop In The City’s Violent Crime Right And This Is Why

Chicago, Illinois, is one of the mayor American cities that faces big challenges when it comes to fighting violent crime. Historically, the city has been renowned for the role that organized crime has had on politics and also because deep social inequality often leads to marginalization. Even though the city experiences high levels of criminality that need to be tackled, there are some promising signs as 2020 begins. And the newly elected mayor Lori Lightfoot might have a lot to do with it, and has some thoughts on why the city has experienced a double-digit fall on violent crime indexes. 

Lori Lightfoot, a queer Black woman, has had a great inaugural year in office.

Credit: Chicago Tonight / WTTW

Lightfoot is part of an important shift in local governments that has seen the number of female incumbents increase more than ever before. As NFINCE reported in its end of year recap of good things that happened in 2019, “with the April election of Lori Lightfoot in Chicago, a record number of black women (eight) served as mayors in the 100 largest cities in the United States.”

Lightfoot has been strong from day one, making masterful political moves such as firing a senior police officer that many had not dared to touch. As the Chicago Sun Times reports: “… she fired the retiring police superintendent she had celebrated one month earlier after accusing Eddie Johnson “lying” to her and to the public about the circumstances surrounding an embarrassing drinking-and-driving incident in mid-October. From a practical standpoint, Lightfoot’s decision simply means Johnson is gone a month earlier than the Dec. 31 retirement date he announced in October. But, from a political standpoint, it’s a sea change”. So yes, while in power she has made sure that the establishment knows that she has the upper hand. 

While cities like Baltimore experienced a spike in crime during 2019, Chicago’s went down by up to 10%!

As the non for profit The Crime Report points out: “Crime in Chicago is down. Though it hasn’t returned to 2014 levels, compared to late November of last year, reported crimes are down by 10 percent. That decrease is driven partly by significant declines in property crime. Violent crime has fallen by 11 percent”. This is great news for the Windy City, which has often been singled out by Republicans as evidence of Democrat failure in government. Let’s not forget that mamy Obama aides and Obama himself learnt to do politics in the tough Chicago scene and the city is a somewhat safe Democratic bastion.

In a televised interview, Lightfoot outlined what she thinks are the reasons behind this positive drop in violent crimes.

Credit: CNN / YouTube

The Chicago Mayor told CNN that one of the reasons for the drop is the alignment of the different government departments in the city to guarantee public safety. But above all, she stated, was the work with what she called “community partners” while being “on the ground”. This is a very similar approach that the Obama-school of Chicago politics advocates for. She also credits the support that the city government has been giving to victims of crime. Lightfoot also singled out the use of complex technology that alerts police when there is a shooting so they can act faster. Technology is being deployed in the most violent areas of the city. There is a constant flow of information that can be sent to the field to track cars, victims and shooters. 

But there is still a lot to do and the situation in Chicago remains less than ideal, so come structural changes are being put in motion.

Credit: WBEZ

As The Crime Report sums up: “Chicago is on track to record fewer than 500 homicides this year, a 35 percent decrease from 2016. Even if Chicago returned to its 2014 murder rate, that would still be three times higher than the national rate”. There are other challenges faced by the Chicago police, such as the low number of solved homicides in the city. 

One of the most significant changes to law enforcement structures enacted in 2019 was a considerable increase in the number of detectives in the city. As the Associated Press reports, the Chicago Police Department “is beefing up its detective ranks and spreading them around the city in the hope that it can catch up to departments in other major cities that solve a far higher percentage of homicide and other violent crime cases”. Authorities are optimistic about this change, as the AP further reports: “Police officials said will get detectives to crime scenes more quickly and give them a better chance of finding witnesses to interview” and “the move will foster public trust in communities, particularly those with high crime rates , and will allow residents to regularly see the same detectives”.

Violent crimes are down, yes, but other offenses that affect communities are up, as reported by The Wall Street Journal: “A rise in carjacking across Chicago has spooked residents even as police celebrate a drop in violent crimes such as shootings and homicides”. So there is still a lot of work to do. 

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