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Supt. Eddie Johnson: Two men with 80 arrests tell crimes’ story

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson talks to reporters outside Stroger Hospital. | Simone Alicea/Sun-Times

Eighty.

That’s the combined number of arrests between two men – one an alleged offender, Raul Martinez, and one a victim, Robert Rosenau – involved in a homicide that occurred in Chicago this past Monday. The long and violent histories of these men demonstrate the challenges that Chicago police officers face every day in making our city safer.

Chicagoans depend on the brave men and women of the police department to patrol the streets each day with professionalism and with respect for the people we serve. Lately, we have seen how much damage a small number of repeat offenders with violent criminal records can cause in our communities.

OPINION

Police cannot respond to this alone. The sad arrest histories of these men is the latest illustration of how judges and the rest of the criminal justice system need to join parents, clergy, activists and Chicago’s residents as our partners to create a culture of responsibility and accountability in neighborhoods across the city. For years, repeat offenders with violent criminal records have been able to continually cause harm in our communities with minimum consequences.

Offenders tell me that as long as they can get out of jail in a matter of months for carrying a gun, they are going to do it again. And Martinez, the alleged offender in last week’s murder case, is the perfect demonstration: in 2014, he was sentenced to three years in jail on a gun charge, but walked free just over a year later.

So I’m going to continue to demand that the criminal justice system do a better job to hold these violent individuals accountable and keep them off of our streets.

It doesn’t have to be this way. It shouldn’t be this way. And by working together, we can curb these trends.

As superintendent, I will ensure our officers are doing everything possible to get these dangerous, repeat offenders off the street. But if the courts put them right back on the street days or weeks later, all our work is washed away. Police have a big role in public safety, but ours is not the only role and everyone needs to play their part.

At the police department, we are leveraging technology in our fight against crime. Using an algorithm that computes important violence-related information about individuals — previous arrests, gang affiliations and more — we can identify and take action against the small number of offenders who are driving the violence in our city.

By our count, about 1,300 individuals — or less than one percent of the city’s population — are responsible for the vast majority of violence we’ve seen in recent months. Having this information at our fingertips helps us better target our resources to go after those individuals who pose the biggest threat to the safety of our communities.

It also shows that most people who reside in communities torn by violence just want a safe place to live and raise their children. To help make that happen, we must combine these new technologies with the tried and true methods of old fashioned police work — building partnerships with the people in our communities. It requires patience, persistence and the steadfast determination to build relationships and reinforce the responsibility that everyone shares for the safety of our children.

Just as integral is the role of parents. A life of violence can start when parents look the other way. With gun offenders getting increasingly younger, we all have a responsibility to be better parents to our children. I raised one son and two daughters and I’m helping raise a granddaughter. It’s on us, as parents, to teach young people right from wrong. Because if we don’t raise them right, the streets will steer them down the wrong path.

Respect is the foundation for rebuilding trust. And the easiest and most honest way to show respect is to listen. To the residents of Chicago, we hear you and you have my commitment that we will work with you as your partners in this fight.

We all have a big job to do and there is no time to waste. We all have to play our part to reduce those risks, and you have my commitment that we will partner with judges, the criminal justice system, residents and community leaders in the fight against crime. When we all work together, and when we all do our part, we can make our city an ever safer and more vibrant place to live.

We are all in this together.

Eddie Johnson, a 27-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, was named superintendent on March 28.

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