Lightfoot: Chicago making progress on fighting crime despite continued downtown violence
The mayor, in an interview Wednesday, credited a ‘multitiered’ strategy for a drop in murders and shootings and said the city needs to target late-hour bars where a lot of downtown violence is occurring.
Despite rising violence this year in downtown Chicago, the city is making “progress” in fighting crime, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in an interview Wednesday, pointing to citywide decreases in the numbers of killings and shootings.
Lightfoot pointed to big businesses moving to and expanding in Chicago as a sign they believe the city has a plan to deal with crime — even as it continues to make national news with incidents like the mass shooting in May at a McDonald’s on the Near North Side.
Earlier this week, the Chicago Police Department said the number of killings this year is down 16% citywide versus the same period last year, and the number of people shot is down 20%.
Asked whether those decreases don’t merely reflect a national post-COVID trend — New York and Los Angeles also have seen drops this year in such crimes — Lightfoot said it’s the result of a “multitiered strategy” to combat gangs and gun proliferation and invest in neighborhoods.
The mayor, who’s running for reelection and has faced criticism for last year’s murder total, which exceeded 800 victims, said the city is focusing “on those places that are driving the violence, meaning locations but also people, and then making sure that we’re providing data and helping forge community-driven solutions.”
This year’s murder and shooting numbers, though down from last year’s historic levels, remain far higher than in 2019, when Lightfoot took office.
Data posted last week showed a 35% increase in all reported crimes in Chicago this year. But the numbers of killings and shootings are up sharply in the two police districts that cover downtown, with vehicle thefts and other thefts up just as steeply.
Lightfoot acknowledged crime continues to plague downtown and the North Side, places that haven’t seen such violence in years. She said the people driving that violence “don’t live in those communities” and that much of the crime is concentrated around 45 businesses with liquor licenses that allow them to remain open until 4 or 5 a.m.
“We’re seeing people coming out of these late-night establishments and getting into something, and that leads to a shooting,” she said.
Lightfoot wouldn’t say how she plans to address businesses with late closing hours other than to say, “We’ve got to engage with them in a serious conversation,” and she’s willing to forgo revenue from those bars “because frankly, I’m more concerned about loss of life.”
The mayor said the city needs to hire more cops, too. The police department has fallen from 13,300 officers when she took office in May 2019 to about 11,600 officers now. She pointed to the creation of a full-time police recruiting team and the revival of old-school ideas like a police cadet program for high-schoolers.
Recently, cops have been complaining their days off are frequently canceled to help the department cover the city. Many officers say they aren’t making the kinds of arrests they might have in the past because they fear getting in trouble.
“Our officers are working their tails off,” Lightfoot said. “They are working very hard.”
Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, said she hopes new federal legislation will result in more gun-trafficking prosecutions in Chicago.
Asked about Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who has said the police department should concentrate on arresting people for violent crimes instead of gun possession, Lightfoot said, “Anyone who says that we are wasting, CPD is wasting its time arresting people for mere gun possession, tell that to the victims that I talk to who are destroyed by gun violence.”