The Policy Shop: Brandon Johnson’s public safety shell game

The Policy Shop: Brandon Johnson’s public safety shell game

This edition of The Policy Shop is by writer Patrick Andriesen.

Here’s a thought: Violent crimes are surging in Chicago and sending businesses packing, so let’s cut the number of cops on the street.

That’s some brilliant, progressive thinking, right?

Two Illinois Policy Institute reports this week highlighted Chicago’s crime problems, problems 66% of voters in our Lincoln Poll said they wished Mayor Brandon Johnson would take more seriously.

“Get out.” The first report showed carjackings more than doubled in the past five years. They were also more violent, with 3 of 4 involving a weapon or vulnerable Chicagoan rather than just a threat or the carjacker getting physical.

In March one of the victims was downtown in the middle of the afternoon. She was the wife of CME Group chief Terry Duffy, who now has positioned his company for a move that would cost Chicago thousands of jobs and trillions in worldwide trades. He said crime and Johnson’s tax schemes have him eyeing the escape hatch.

So even if Johnson’s view of rich people deadened his concern for this crime, what about caring for the most vulnerable city residents – those who could lose a job without their car? For every 250 Englewood residents, one was carjacked last year on average. Just. Last. Year. That is nearly six times the average, which, again, more than doubled in just five years.

Empty parking spot. The other report was about car theft. It is so out of control this year that Chicago blew past an 11-year record back in September.

Through October there were 50% more car thefts compared to 2012. What’s happened to the arrest rate? It’s fallen to the lowest level in the past 11 years: 2.5% so far this year compared to 5.3% in 2012.

“Car thefts are low priority for the police, too,” said Matt Nalett, founder of an effort to help Chicagoans locate their stolen cars – the Chicago Stolen Car Directory. “But the way I see it, it’s one less stolen car causing chaos around the city, being used to rob people or steal catalytic converters. They do that all the time and then dump the car somewhere. And you know, someone really needs that car. Those thieves don’t.”

When you need one. So here’s how Chicago’s new mayor is responding: 833 fewer police on the street. He eliminated those positions from his budget.

Plus, he plans to turn 400 remaining police vacancies into civilian positions. He also is taking another 100 officers from the streets and using them to triage the serious detective shortage, meaning too few detectives and fewer patrol officers.

If carjackings and auto theft aren’t enough motivation for Johnson, how about desperate residents calling for help and getting none? Over 50% of high-priority 911 calls had no officer available this year through late July, up from 19% in 2019. Arrests were made in fewer than 12% of all crimes in 2022. Arrests between 2019 and 2021 were down 50%.

City government is expected to provide a lot of services, but nothing is as important as ensuring residents don’t face a criminal with a gun. They deserve hope that criminal will be caught and stopped from doing it to someone else. Nothing will send residents and businesses fleeing like an inability to control crime.

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