By Doug Wyllie
There’s something in the air in Chicago and—like the poor air quality from the Canadian wildfires—it isn’t good for the health of its residents. It’s bullets—lots and lots and lots of bullets.
According to the Chicago Sun Times, as of the last day in June there have been 289 victims of homicide in Chicago this year. Police say that nearly all of those deaths have been caused by gunfire, and that while many of those individuals were specifically targeted, some were simply “collateral damage” and “in the line of fire” during crimes to which they were completely unassociated.
According to ABC News, on Memorial Day weekend alone, 53 people were shot—11 fatally. This included two toddlers who were accidentally shot and wounded in separate incidents and two teenagers—a 14-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl—who were standing on sidewalks during unrelated shootings. A few weeks later—during the weekend on which many families were celebrating Father’s Day—more than people were 75 shot—14 fatally.
Some are quick to point out that homicides are “trending down” or “down somewhat” this year. According to police department data, Chicago recorded 695 homicides in 2022, a marked improvement over 2021, when the number of killings reached 836—the highest level in a quarter century.
So saying that Chicago is “better than it was a couple years ago” is hardly a ringing endorsement of the city’s overall safety.
Speaking on Unspeakable Truths
Residents of Chicago know instinctively, intuitively, and experientially—without even delving deeply into the statistical tables—three unspeakable truths.
First and foremost is the truth that nearly all of the murder victims in Chicago are young Black men.
According to the Chicago Tribune, of those killed so far in 2023, 131 were not yet even 30 years of age, 232 were Black, and 241 were male.
Secondly, Chicagoans know that in truth, the overwhelming majority of the people squeezing the triggers in those tragic incidents are also young Black men.
This is a subject that few have historically had the courage to discuss, but even Bill Maher—once a card-carrying member of the Lefty Elite who has of late leaned more Libertarian than Liberal—says that conversation about “Black-on-Black” crime needs increased attention, particularly from African American celebrities, athletes, and other popular “role models.”
According to the New York Post, the host of HBO’s “Real Time” recently noted that most gunfire in Chicago is from “young Black men killing other young Black men.”
Maher added, “Why doesn’t anybody talk about that? Why aren’t there, you know, a hundred, giant black celebrities who would have the respect of those people say ‘What are you doing to yourself, why are you killing each other?”
Maher’s inference that “nobody” is talking about this issue ignores those who have been doing just that—loudly at times—for many years. His statement illuminates, however, the reality that in today’s “cancel culture,” speaking out about this truth comes with substantial risk to one’s public standing and professional outlook.
Heather Mac Donald—Manhattan Institute Fellow and author of numerous books on crime and criminal justice in America—recently wrote in the City Journal, “Merely mentioning Black-on-Black crime guarantees the accusation of racism, as if facts are racist.”
Third—but not necessarily last—is the truth that nearly every person convicted of murder in Chicago has a long and violent criminal past, and that those criminals (and their criminal acts) are tolerated—if not directly facilitated—by the elected leaders sworn to protect the city’s citizens from harm.
The people most recently serving as Mayor of Chicago and the Cook County State’s Attorney are premiere examples of such failed leadership.
Passing the Political Hot Potato
Crime—particularly violent crime—was one of the primary points of focus during the most recent mayoral election cycle, and will most certainly have as-yet-unforeseen significance in the 2024 race for the city’s top prosecutor.
Jaime Domínguez—a political science professor at Northwestern University—told the Associated Press that the 2022-2023 campaign was the “first time in 20 years that he’s seen public safety be ‘front and center’ in a Chicago mayoral election.
None of the nine candidates secured an absolute majority in the general election, and with the support of only about one-in-six Chicago voters, the soft-on-crime incumbent came in third, thus failing to advance to the runoff. In so doing, Lightfoot went from being the first openly gay Black female mayor of Chicago to becoming the first full-term incumbent in 40 years to lose reelection.
The runoff pitted Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson against former CEO of Chicago Public Schools Paul Vallas. By maddening happenstance, the person who emerged victorious from that contest might end up being even worse for public safety and the rule of law than Lightfoot.
Vallas—who campaigned on a tough-on-crime message and had received the endorsement of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police (FOP)—garnered 48%, while Johnson—who was a vocal advocate for the “defund the police movement” before he was tepidly against it—secured 52% of the vote.
According to CPD CompStat data, during the first 30 days Mayor Johnson’s term in office, 56 people have been shot and killed in 258 separate shooting incidents, with the total crime count growing 38% compared to the same month last year.
As for Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx, well, her mismanagement of the office, her failure to make sound prosecutorial decisions, and her record on allowing criminals to walk free of prosecution and/or incarceration has made her so unpopular that she won’t even bother to seek reelection in 2024.
It’s useful to briefly review the track record of the first African American woman to lead the second largest prosecutor’s office in America.
Shortly after taking office in December 2016, Foxx decided—essentially by fiat—that the threshold for prosecuting retail thefts as a felony should double from $500 to $1,000 in value of stolen goods. Then there was her total ineptitude on the Jussie Smollett case, which was an unmitigated disaster from start to finish. Finally, as time passed—and Foxx passed on prosecuting case after case—frustrated Assistant State’s Attorneys (ASAs) in her office began to resign en masse.
In his very public departure, ASA Jim Murphy said in an open resignation letter, “This Administration is more concerned with political narratives and agendas than with victims and prosecuting violent crime. That is why I can’t stay any longer.”
According to the WGN-TV News, Foxx publicly announced her decision to relinquish her office without contest during a speech to an assembled crowd at the historic City Club of Chicago.
“I leave with my head held high, my heart full, knowing that there are better days ahead,” she said.
Well, when you’ve hit rock bottom, there’s really nowhere else go but up.
The City of Cold Shoulders
Voters in the City of Broad Shoulders have repeatedly and for decades given the cold shoulder to nominees who promise safer streets. Names of so-called “Conservative” and/or “Republican” candidates—from Robert Merriam to Bernard Epton—are mere asterisks in the chronicles of Chicago politics.
In fact, there hasn’t been a Republican mayor in the Windy City since William Hale Thompson left the office in 1931. Known to Chicagoans as “Big Bill,” Thompson was no paragon of ethics or virtue and was at the helm during the height of Chicago gang wars resulting in events such as the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. So simply electing a person based on party affiliation is about as logical as electing them on the basis of the color of their skin or the gender of their sex partner (see also: Lightfoot and Foxx).
It remains unclear whether or not Chicagoans will wake up and elect people who have the willingness and ability to do what is best for the safety of the city, but with Lightfoot gone and Foxx on her way out, perhaps there really are better days ahead.
This article originally appeared at the National Police Association and was reprinted with permission.