Like many large urban cities, Chicago has a serious, persistent crime problem. Over the past 25 years, Chicago has had two mayors, numerous Superintendents of Police and varied policing strategies, which have all failed to significantly reduce crime in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
Mayor Emanuel and Superintendent McCarthy have responded to the crime problem with a few initiatives, which are long on hype but short on the resources needed to get the job done. Mayor Emanuel works hard to manage the public’s perception of the crime problem but is unwilling or unable to invest the leadership, energy and resources needed to effectively combat crime and make all our neighborhoods safe places to live and work.
We have a serious crime problem in too many of our neighborhoods. Its unsafe for kids to walk to school. Its costly for small businesses to operate in these areas. Stores that long ago fell victim to our divided economy remain shuttered. There are few safe places for recreation, relaxation and entertainment. Good working people spend their evenings locked in their houses. Some who can afford it, move away. Gangs, drugs and street crime prey on those who remain. Too many young men get shot and hundreds are murdered. Innocent bystanders get caught in the crossfire. We cant sit back and let this crime-driven decline and deterioration take its predictable course.
We need a mayor who sees value in our neighborhoods and respects the people who live there. We need a mayor who can envision a better future and can provide the required leadership to get us there. As mayor, my priorities will be safe streets and strong neighborhoods. I will take immediate actions while implementing long-range solutions.
Facing the Facts
In 2013, there were 415 homicides in the city, more than New York, Los Angeles and all other cities in America. While this may have been a decline of 18 percent when Rahm presided over what became known as Chicago’s “murder capital,” our rate still ranks Chicago as the highest in total murders and the rate in African American areas are 10 times higher, particularly neighborhoods like Austin and Englewood.
In 2013, a total of 1,712 people were shot in the city, which is a decline of 25 percent from the previous year if the figures from the Chicago Police Department can be trusted. However, in an extensive two-part article in 2014, Chicago Magazine argued that police department superiors underreported crime in a number of ways including misclassifying and downgrading offenses, counting multiple incidents as single events and making it more difficult for people to report crimes. Inspector General Joseph Ferguson found that the CPD failed to count each victim in multiple victim crimes as a separate offense, which resulted in a 24 percent undercount in victim offenses in a test sample.
In the fall of 2011, about six months after taking office, Mayor Emanuel announced that he had moved some 1,000 police officers, including 40 from desk jobs, to beat patrols to beef up the front lines in the fight on crime. But since then, the numbers have plunged by hundreds of cops. As of December 8, 2013, the Chicago Police Department had 7,078 rank-and-file officers and supervisors assigned to work in its 22 patrol districts, a decline of 779 beat officers, or 10 percent since the fall of 2011.
In addition to beat officers, there are 5,000 detectives, gang and narcotics specialists and cops on saturation teams and in other specialized units. Also there are 515 rookie cops on foot patrol or in field training who have yet to be permanently assigned to districts.
But according to a Chicago Tribune analysis, hiring has not kept pace with retirements and other departures. Although CDP added a combined 1,495 cops since 2009, those gains have been swamped by close to 2,600 officers who retired or left for other reasons. At the start of 2014, the Chicago Police Department overall staffing stood at about 12,250, down 900 officers from the end of 2009. And although hiring picked up under Emanuel with 1,047 new cops, the data shows that Chicago now has 20 fewer cops than it did in 2011.
Instead of hiring enough new officers to replace departures and adequately combat the outrageously high crime in South and West side neighborhoods, the Emanuel-McCarthy team moved manpower to the hot spots and authorized a huge increase in overtime spending. Last year, CPD spent about $100 million on overtime to allow hundreds of cops to work on their days off.
The police districts on the North and Northwest sides suffered the biggest declines in manpower. With fewer cops on beat patrols, calls to 911 become backed up causing longer response times. Chicago Magazine noted a link between longer response times even in more affluent neighborhoods thought to be low crime areas and the decline in CPDs crime statistics. The longer victims wait for police to arrive, the greater the chance they will leave the scene, the authors wrote. No victim, no report. The magazine also quoted an unnamed detective: If people are waiting around for a squad car to show up because you dont have enough manpower, your reported crime is going to go down.
Progressive Caucus Fights for More Police
In my first term as Alderman, I called for the Police Department to hire 1,000 new officers to help deal with the then burgeoning crime problem. The administration said the additional cops werent needed and they didnt have the money to pay additional salaries and benefits.
In November 2013, members of the City Councils Progressive Caucus and several other Aldermen offered a proposal to spend $25 million to hire an additional 500 police officers rather than adopt Mayor Emanuels plan to hold police manpower steady in 2014 and set aside $71 million to pay officers overtime to bolster the number of cops on the street. Our proposal was blocked in the Budget Committee after aldermen who support the Mayor voted to table it.
Two days before Thanksgiving, Mayor Emanuels budget sailed through the Council with myself and four other aldermen voting against it. In addition to several other reasons, I voted “no” because of the Mayor’s refusal to hire more police.
At the end of April 2014, along with five other City Council members, including Alderman Scott Waguespack, I introduced a resolution in City Council asking the Committee on Public Safety to take testimony from Superintendent McCarthy about CDPs recording and reporting of crime statistics. Alderman James Balcer (11), chairman of the committee, has yet to schedule a hearing.
Achieving the Goal: Safe Streets
Safe streets and strong neighborhoods, is not only the theme of my campaign but its my top priority and, as mayor, it will be my overarching goal. All three elements are bound together but the most immediate need is to achieve Safe Streets. Here are the steps I will take:
Hire at least 500 new police officers in addition to replacing about 500 cops who each year retire or leave the force. In my first year in office I will find the money to hire the new recruits and assign them to neighborhoods as quickly as they can be educated at the Police Academy and effectively trained on the job by experienced sergeants. We need police officers who understand the complexities of our neighborhoods. We all know that in Chicago money can easily be found to fund new sports arenas, river walks, fire festivals, Olympic bids, and other pet projects of the Mayor. My personal initiative will be to hire enough police to effectively reduce crime and make our streets safer. Hiring additional officers is only part of the solution.
Guns: License dealers, stricter background checks, stop the flow: I believe there are too many illegal guns in Chicago. I will work with the Police Superintendent to get guns out of the hands of criminals and will work with all levels of government to pass and enforce laws designed to reduce the flow of illegal guns into our city. I will work with members of the Illinois General Assembly for stricter background checks for private and gun show sales and require that all gun dealers in the state be licensed. Under my administration, I will make sure that the guns we say we captured will not be dragged out a second time to bolster claims of success.
Guns flood in from all sides and in some instances, on rail lines that stop in neighborhoods like Englewood and Back of the Yards. Gun law policy should focus on enforcing laws that are on the books and supporting state and federal efforts to cut off the supply of illegal guns flooding into the city and particularly in our hard-hit neighborhoods.
Faster responses to 911 calls: I will hold the Superintendent accountable for reducing the time it takes for a squad car to respond to 911 calls. To a large extent this is a function of having enough officers on all shifts. Increasing the number of officers will reduce response times.
RICO: I believe there is the potential to use this recently passed state law to go after the leaders and not just the foot soldiers of criminal gangs. I will encourage the CPD to partner with the Cook County States Attorney, a major proponent of the law, to use this new legal tool as often as practical. I also think we should explore the use of Civil RICO to drain all assets from gangs to reduce the profitability of their criminal activities.
Honest, consistent, timely and understandable crime statistics: I will make sure that CPDs compiling and reporting of its crime statistics will conform as closely as possible to the FBIs Uniform Crime Report. While Im Mayor, anytime the CPD changes the way it compiles incidents of crime, I will make sure it reports the statistics both the new way and the old way for at least three years and posts both versions on its website.
Return gang specialists to work in the precincts so they can know the bad actors and develop needed police intelligence about gang activities and their networks.
Bodycam Pilot Program: There are legitimate fiscal and safety incentives for the implementation of bodycams for CPD. Bodycams serve as an extra layer of accountability that can help prevent misconduct as well as protect police officers from frivolous complaints or lawsuits. According to the Virginia Journal of Criminal Law, from January 2006 through December 2012, the city of Chicago spent $328 million in settlements for 2,880 claims of police misconduct. This works out to an average of over $46 million per year. We are spending vital funds on lawsuits when we can be investing those dollars in measures that protect the public and our police officers.
Recently, the federal government has proposed a $263 million investment package that will increase bodycam use across the country. Part of the program includes providing a 50 percent match to States/localities that purchase bodycams and storage. Chicago can take advantage of this funding to launch a bodycam pilot.
Expansion of restorative justice programs: Restorative Justice is a key diversionary measure that moves individuals away from the criminal justice system. It builds accountability in the community instead of fueling the prison pipeline. With the expansion of restorative justice as part and parcel of the city’s public safety plan, it sends a strong message that public safety is not just about policing, it’s about communities playing a lead role in cultivating a culture of safety and accountability in their neighborhoods. This includes support for peer justice panels, peer mediation programs, training for peace circle keepers, and other conflict resolution and social/emotional supports.
Reducing human and sex trafficking in Chicago: In 2013, I organized and testified before the City Council Joint Committee on Public Safety/Human Relations to raise awareness and work to identify solutions on the issue of human trafficking. On any given day in Chicagoland, between 16,000 and 24,000 women and girls have their lives damaged by prostitution and the unfair and outdated penalties that exacerbate the problems they face on a daily basis.
Human trafficking hurts our communities and it affects our criminal justice system. In 2011 in Chicago, there were more than 2,300 charges against people in prostitution. Only 40 charges were made against pimps, johns or traffickers who create the demand for the sex trade. Recently the Illinois General Assembly passed a bill to end our state’s felony prostitution penalty, which Governor Quinn signed into law. There is a growing recognition that people who are forced to sell sex deserve support and services, not punishment. I firmly believe that Chicago needs to become part of that effort. My belief is we need to collaborate with local groups who are experts on this issue. I view the testimony as a starting point, and that members of the Council will continue to work with the groups gathered that day to help reform our city’s response to human trafficking.
Achieving the Goal: Good jobs and healthy neighborhoods
As Alderman, I have created permanent jobs with a living wage, closed a food desert, put vacant parcels back on the property tax rolls, created and expanded neighborhood schools and parks. Although acting to make our streets safer will be the first step toward achieving the goal of Safe Streets, Good Jobs, Healthy Neighborhoods, work will begin right away on the other two aspects.
For example, I will propose tax advantages to be used to support economic activity in lower-income neighborhoods, including creating tax-free zones for a period of time to encourage small business development. Tax-free zones support the notion of cluster development – developing several businesses at once instead of spot development with one-offs. This is best done by identifying those corridors that qualify and providing a moratorium on taxes for entrepreneurs that locate in that corridor (with a special emphasis on local small businesses). This should come with a revamping of the Small Business Improvement Fund program (SBIF) to provide additional funds for structural and façade improvements as well as targeted technical assistance provided through the department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP). The tax moratorium should be for 1 year with an additional year added if the business hires a minimum of 3 employees from the local community.
I will require all public works construction projects to hire a substantial number of workers who are Chicago residents – 30% of the total construction crew, with half of those from the neighborhoods in and bordering the construction projects. The bigger issue is in working to ensure that those companies that are hired to do public construction work are located within city limits. This provides additional exposure to locally-based companies that often don’t get a shot at contracts because larger, national companies bid and win. This must be coupled with an effort to unbundle large contracts. Many times, the size of these contracts places them out of reach of some of those smaller companies.
As mayor, I will begin immediately to attract smart, experienced people to work with my administration to help revitalize our neighborhoods. Together we will develop ways to grow businesses and provide jobs with a focus on jobs for the 21st century – advanced manufacturing, IT, transportation & logistics and health care. We will rebuild housing and improve living conditions and the environment.
Though Chicago faces many challenges, we also have many assets. One of our greatest assets is an engaged and thoughtful group of community development advocates and professionals. As mayor, I plan to work with these stakeholders collaboratively to identify creative ways to best utilize new and existing resources for development in our neighborhoods.