Last Tuesday, just after 12 noon, my mother and I dropped by The Silver Room, our favorite neighborhood shop, on East 53rd Street in Hyde Park.
Five minutes later, we were lying flat and shivering on the floor behind a table in the rear of the store, terrorized by the unmistakable rattle of rapid-fire gunshots outside.
The media reported the insanity. Someone had pulled up and started shooting. Jahmal Cole, a Chicago activist and congressional candidate, said he believes he was the target and narrowly escaped by diving under a car.
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Two hours later, Shaoxiong Zheng, a recent graduate of the University of Chicago, was shot and killed in a street robbery in Hyde Park.
It all happened in a middle-class neighborhood, near former president Barack Obama’s home and the university.
“It’s everywhere, and no one can stop it!” my 88-year-old mother declared, again and again and again, as I tried to calm her down. Carjackings, street and expressway shootings, armed robberies, everywhere, in Chicago.
Why? Bamani Obadele offers one answer. On the evening of Oct. 23, the longtime community organizer and political strategist pulled his car over to pick up food from a restaurant on the Near South Side. As he stepped away, a youth jumped into his car and drove off, with Obadele’s cell phone and house keys inside.
Obadele eventually connected with three Chicago police officers who offered to drive him to his mother’s home so he could get a spare set of keys, he told me. The officers were respectful and kind, he emphasized.
But “from start to finish when I get in the car, the cops are just lambasting” Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
“Well, you know, this is the mayor’s fault,” Obadele quoted the officers as saying. “And this wouldn’t have happened to you if Lori wasn’t the mayor. And, you know, Kim Foxx isn’t going to do anything about it. ... The city’s going to hell all because of Kim Foxx and Lori Lightfoot. These are your people, your community, and you elect these people, and they don’t do anything for you.”
Foxx and Lightfoot are Black. The officers were white, Obadele said.
That’s the word on the street: Instead of fighting rampant crime, the police are blame gaming. It’s all the fault of Foxx and Lightfoot and their support of criminal justice reform. They are coddling the criminals, some say.
Obadele’s car was later found, crashed and totaled. The police said they would investigate, but he has heard nothing more.
“I sincerely believe that the police are laying down. And this is sad to say … this is a narrative that they want to push.”
“The Police Department is not ‘laying down,’’’ responded Chicago Police Department spokesman Don Terry. “The men and women of the police department, day and night, are doing their job. They are doing the work, often at great risk to themselves.”
Police are making progress, a department source told me, noting that between Jan. 1 and Nov. 9, police made 282 arrests for vehicular hijackings in Chicago, compared with 164 during the same period in 2020.
According to the Cook County state’s attorney’s latest annual report, the CPD received 242,859 criminal incident reports between Nov. 1, 2020, and Oct. 31, 2021.
In that period, 23,969 incidents resulted in at least one offender being arrested, for an overall arrest rate of 10%.
That includes 738 homicides and 182 arrests, for an arrest rate of 25%. For 3,516 shootings, the arrest rate was 10%; for 1,839 vehicular hijackings, a 15% arrest rate.
Foxx cannot prosecute criminals if the police aren’t arresting them.
The police are supposed to serve and protect. Instead, some pass the buck. Hundreds of officers won’t even get vaccinated to protect themselves — and us — from COVID-19.
Leaving us all sitting, shivering ducks.
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