Mayor announces progress against carjackings, then steps on her message

Blaming carjackings on remote learning is another example of a frustrating tendency to present supposition and conjecture as fact.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot listens to Chicago Police Supt. David Brown speak about current state of the Joint Carjacking Operation Task Force at the Office of Emergency Management and Communications in Near West Side, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and police Supt. David Brown certainly had potentially encouraging news to announce this week on their efforts to curb carjackings in the city.

Lightfoot and Brown said the work of a specialized, multi-jurisdictional task force is beginning to bear fruit and would now work around the clock.

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But then the mayor said — with no real proof at all — that the carjackings were largely the work of public school kids who were snatching vehicles when they should have been at home participating in remote learning.

It’s another example of the mayor’s frustrating tendency — when discussing the causes of crime — to fill in the gaps with supposition and conjecture presented as fact. Assuming cause-and-effect, without solid evidence, makes it that much harder to reach real solutions to Chicago’s crime and violence problem.

Lightfoot made the claim Monday at a news conference at the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications headquarters.

“Having talked to state’s attorneys who were dealing with these cases in juvenile court and others, a lot of parents went to work during the day thinking their teenagers were logged on for remote learning only to find something else,” she said.

“For many of these kids, some of whom had no prior involvement in the criminal justice system, this was pure boredom,” she said.

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Yet the mayor presented no concrete evidence of the claim, if only to keep it from looking as if she was taking a gratuitous shot at a policy — remote learning — she disagrees with.

The concern here is that fact-free assertion will again elbow its way into mayoral policy. That’s what happened with Lightfoot’s claim that suspects released on electronic monitoring are to blame for the city’s overall increase in violent crime.

And the result of that: a quixotic and likely unconstitutional push to get the county courts to institute a moratorium on electronic monitoring for those accused of violent felonies.

Facts matter. As a mayor, who was once a federal prosecutor, should know.

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