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CPD Supt. David Brown: City should not be ‘running in place’ on violent crime

July saw more than 100 murders for second straight year.

Supt. David Brown on Monday expressed frustration that the city’s violent crime remains at near-record levels for the second year in a row.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Complaining about low bail for violent arrestees and an “historic” number of guns on Chicago’s streets, Supt. David Brown on Monday expressed frustration that the city’s violent crime remains at near-record levels for the second year in a row.

Chicago saw 105 murders in the month of July, just two fewer than in July 2020. Year to date, there have been four fewer murders in 2021 than during the first seven months of 2020— though there have been nearly 200 more shootings this year than last.

As he does at most of his weekly press briefings, Brown updated the tally for CPD’s gun-related arrests and offered the record-setting pace of gun seizures as evidence police are doing their part.

Police have made 3,477 firearm-related arrests and so far this year have taken 7,322 guns off the streets — some 1,500 more weapons than during the same period last year and on pace for more than 12,000 seized firearms by year-end.

Brown also noted the department’s efforts at community outreach in July: 143 “youth engagements” including a baseball camp and boat rides with the department’s marine unit; 105 charitable giveaways; and a live concert for seniors.

“You should not be running in place as far as homicides, and you should not be up 10% (in shootings) with all the work that the men and women of the Chicago Police Department have done in recovering guns, which are 90% of what’s happening in relation to violence,” Brown said.

“There are too many guns and too little consequences for repeat, violent offenders.”

Many cities are struggling to reverse dramatic increases in violent crime that began in 2020, a surge experts attribute to the combination of multiple factors: mass unemployment during the pandemic; closure of outreach programs; and lack of trust in law enforcement in the wake of George Floyd’s murder murder by a Minneapolis police officer.

Chicago’s 1% increase in homicides year-to-year is markedly better than the numbers in other large cities. According to data analyst Jeff Asher, who tracks crime data from public sources across the U.S., murders are up by nearly a third in Houston, 25% in Philadelphia, 29% in Los Angeles and 1% in New York.

Brown has frequently touted CPD’s “big swing” into community policing programs and the city’s new, holistic approach to fighting crime with a combination of new policing strategies, violence prevention programs, and outreach and support to those most likely to shoot others or be shot themselves.

Just as frequently, Brown has complained about a Cook County court system he says allows too many offenders back on the street after arrests for weapons or violence charges. Brown cited the example of a defendant in a double-homicide from 2017 who was released on electronic monitoring, one of more than 100 murder defendants who have been released from jail while outfitted with a GPS tracking device.

Chief Judge Timothy Evans has said that 99% of defendants on bond for violent crimes do not pick up a new arrest while free on bond, and 90% make scheduled court dates. State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has pointed to CPD’s dismal solve rate for shootings, noting that her office brings charges in nine out of 10 cases brought to prosecutors by CPD.

Brown compared the “mostly flat” levels of violence to the decline in murders that began after the city’s other recent spike in killings. In 2016, the number of murders reached more than 770, then dropped in each of the following years, with 650 murders in 2017, 561 in 2018, and 490 in 2019. Bond court was reformed in 2017 to allow more defendants to receive affordable bond amounts, and judges have been both more likely to assign lower bail amounts and to order defendants deemed too dangerous to be held with no bond at all.