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Chicago ‘trending in the right direction’ despite violent Labor Day weekend, mayor says

Even after ‘flooding the zone’ — this time, with 1,000 additional police officers — Labor Day weekend in Chicago ended with 43 people shot; eight of them died.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson in a remodeled City Hall press conference room, talk to reporters Tuesday.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson in a remodeled City Hall press conference room, talk to reporters after their weekly “Accountability Tuesday” meeting.
Fran Spielman/ Chicago Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday Chicago is “trending in the right direction, but has a long way to go” toward her ambitious goal of becoming “the safest big city in the country.”

Even after “flooding the zone” — this time, with 1,000 additional police officers — Labor Day weekend in Chicago ended with 43 people shot, eight of them killed.

That was up from 27 people shot, eight of them fatally over the same period a year ago.

On Tuesday, Lightfoot held her weekly “Accountability Tuesday” session, at which she holds Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson’s feet to the fire.

The mayor acknowledged the holiday weekend crime stats were not good but said patience and perspective are required.

“In anything regarding crime numbers, you have to take the long view. We are going to see weekends where we feel like we’re gonna tear our hair out because the numbers are trending in exactly the wrong direction,” the mayor said.

“That’s why we have to consistently look at the data, make sure that we’ve got resources deployed in the right places and make adjustments as necessary. There are a lot of resources that were deployed in the 8th District and the 11th District and the 7th and the 6th and 5th, which were some of the districts that had the highest number of shootings over the course of the last week and the weekend. But it’s not enough. Clearly, it’s not enough. So we will keep making those adjustments.”

The 11th District is on the West Side; the others are on the South and Southwest sides.

Johnson was asked whether he regrets having deployed 400 fewer additional officers this year compared to Labor Day weekend 2018, when total shootings were lower (27) but fatal shootings were the same (eight).

“We take all of these holidays and look at `em historically as well as what’s going on currently. That’s how we decide what we’re going to do,” Johnson said.

“Over this past weekend, we were in a lot of the right places at the right time. But some things, you just cannot predict. If hindsight were 20-20, we’d always be right on point. But that’s not how this works.”

For the first time since she started “Accountability Tuesday,” Lightfoot invited reporters into the start of the weekly session she holds to keep police brass on their toes.

With slides to bolster his show-and-tell presentation, First Deputy Superintendent Anthony Riccio pronounced the “strategic plan” that Lightfoot demanded to prevent the traditional summer surge of violent crime an unmitigated success.

The plan used what Riccio called “data-driven policing strategies” to target the “most violent areas” with “resource deployment, outreach and community engagement.”

Not withstanding a comparatively violent Labor Day weekend, the results were undeniably positive, Riccio said.

From Memorial Day through Labor Day, there was a 17.5% reduction in shooting incidents in those problems beats.

In Area North, there was a 14.5% drop in shootings and murders in 13 problem problem beats. Area Central saw a 28.9% drop in 11 problem beats. In Area South, it was a 10.4% drop in 11 violent beats.

Citywide, murders were down by 17% in June, by 32% in July and by 22% in August — for an overall summer-long reduction of 24%. Chicago recorded the lowest number of shootings and murders since 2014, Riccio said.

Lightfoot also took another shot at Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz for using Chicago violence to claim that “gun control” and “disarming law-abiding citizens … doesn’t work.”

The mayor already had called out Cruz in a tweet on Sunday.

“Given the tragedy that’s happened in Texas over the last few weeks — tragedies plural — it’s surprising to me that Sen. Cruz would do anything other than work his butt off to represent the citizens of Texas,” Lightfoot said Tuesday, reprising her war of words with Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter.

“For him to make a political point — or try to — out of the horrible tragedy that’s been unfolding in Texas is really offensive not just to Chicago but to the people in Texas who …will be forever changed by the violence there. What we ought to do is ... come together and solve one of the core problems with gun violence, which is this patchwork of systems in different states … because the federal government hasn’t stepped up to do its job.”

An aide to Mayor Lori Lightfoot in front of a redecorated wall in the mayor’s office suite.
An aide to Mayor Lori Lightfoot in front of a recently redecorated wall in the mayor’s office suite. The wall is intended to highlight the mayor’s “neighborhoods first” approach.
Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Tuesday’s news conference was the first since a $220,000 remodeling of the mayor’s office on the 5th floor of City Hall.

It features new carpeting, a new projector for presentations, brighter lighting and new wall hangings showcasing Lightfoot’s “neighborhoods first” approach. There’s also a shorter podium for the 5-ft.-1-in. mayor and a new navy blue backdrop behind it that reads: “Office of the Mayor.”

Renovations in Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office suite at City Hall include a lowered lectern for news conferences.
Renovations in Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office suite at City Hall include a lowered lectern for news conferences.
Fran Spielman/Sun-Times