Fired Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy is accusing Mayor Rahm Emanuel of being asleep at the wheel when it comes to stopping Chicago’s epidemic of carjackings and waking up only after the problem was out of control.
McCarthy said the brazenness of carjackings in the downtown area — often after motorists are bumped from behind and get out of their vehicles to assess the damage — has discouraged tourists from visiting Chicago and suburbanites from coming downtown.
“When I got here seven years ago, when there was a crime in the Gold Coast or Michigan Avenue, everybody was up in arms. It was like the craziest thing in the world that it could ever happen. That’s no longer the case. We’re becoming numb to it,” said McCarthy, who is considering a race for mayor against Emanuel.
“There’s shootings on Lake Shore Drive. Northwestern Hospital is getting hit with bullets. An off-duty Chicago cops gets carjacked in Bucktown at 12 o’clock in the afternoon on a Wednesday. People are constantly looking over their shoulders. … There’s not part of the city that’s safe right now.”
The FBI, ATF, State Police and local and federal prosecutors have joined Chicago Police on a new team to combat carjackings.
The mayor is also working with four state lawmakers from Chicago to draft legislation aimed at stiffening penalties against carjackers.
McCarthy branded the city’s response too little, too late.
“You don’t wait until you’re up by like 1,000 carjackings to come up with a plan. If I was superintendent, we would already be working with the feds doing federal prosecutions. There’s also a product out there … where you can get a DNA sample returned in 90 minutes. These are no-brainers,” McCarthy said.
“You get the U.S. attorney to make some cases on these guys if they’re conspiracies. If they’re not, you could still take those cases federally. We did this in Newark when I was there, and we broke it immediately. It didn’t take more than a month.”
Pressed to explain the epidemic of carjackings, McCarthy said, “Criminals are getting released immediately after arrest. Many times, they’re not being prosecuted. If there’s no sanction, what the hell? If you want to go take somebody’s Porsche, go do it.”
At a police graduation ceremony last week, Emanuel touted a return to pro-active policing, thanks to a new use-of-force policy, body cameras, Tasers and a heavier emphasis on training.
McCarthy strongly disagreed. He pointed to a precipitous drop in police activity, including arrests and street stops.
“We’ve emboldened criminals while we’ve hamstrung the police in this political environment,” he said.
“When I see a police officer on the street, the first thing they say to me is, “If that’s what they did to you, what would they do to me?’ ”
Police Supt. Eddie Johnson issued an emailed statement in response to McCarthy’s broadside, delivered during a telephone interview this week with the Chicago Sun-Times..
“At a time when so many people are coming together to solve a problem, I don’t have time for people who only speak up when they have something to criticize and nothing to offer,” Johnson was quoted as saying of his predecessor.
“I’m not interested in soundbites, I’m interested in partnering with legislators on new laws, with prosecutors to hold criminals accountable and with federal law enforcement on new tools to help stop carjackings.”
After claiming that he had McCarthy’s back for weeks, Emanuel abruptly fired his first police superintendent on Dec. 1, 2015.
At the time, the mayor claimed that McCarthy had become a “distraction” in the unrelenting furor that followed the court-ordered release of a video of white Police Officer Jason Van Dyke firing sixteen shots at Laquan McDonald while the black teenager was walking away from police with a knife in his hand.
McCarthy has been on the warpath ever since. He’s been particularly frustrated by the surge in homicides and shootings that followed his firing.
He has also condemned what he calls Emanuel’s “illegitimate” end-run around the Police Board’s nationwide search for his replacement that allowed the mayor to choose Johnson, who didn’t even apply for the job.
McCarthy has hired prominent Republican fundraiser Lori Montana and set up an interactive website that will be used to raise money.
He has also commissioned a citywide poll of 800 likely voters — conducted by the pollster to whom Emanuel once famously sent a dead fish – that will help him decide whether to challenge the mayor who fired him.
“I have not seen the numbers yet. But we made sure that we did an in-depth, serious poll to ensure that we know what we’re talking about if we’re moving forward or if it tells us not to do it,” McCarthy said.
As he prepares for a Feb. 11 fundraiser, McCarthy is ridiculing Emanuel for bragging about a 20 percent reduction in homicides last year over the sky-high rates reached in 2016.
“In the two years since I got fired, the murder rate is up by about 70 percent,” McCarthy said.
“We’re bragging about being down last year. Well, you know what? We also own 2016, don’t we, when we had like an 80 percent increase in the murder rate. So, you shouldn’t be bragging.”