The Democratic mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, requested help from the federal government to fight crime in the city. In a press conference on Monday, Lightfoot asked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to significantly increase the number of gun seizures, and the Department of Justice to send more federal Marshals and prosecutors to aid the local police to handle the current violent crime surge.
The mayor also made an appeal to federal authorities asking them to help the city to tackle the growing illegal gun trafficking in the city, claiming that these weapons “have no serial numbers, are untraceable, and can be assembled at home.” The mayor—who was an opponent of the “Defund the Police” movement when it became viral in 2020—also said that the Chicago Police Department will increase the number of officers dedicated to investigating gang activity and homicides.
The city has experienced a substantial increase in violent crime since 2020. According to the Chicago Police Department data, there have been a total of 783 murders this year, a 5% increase from last year. However, the homicide rate has increased significantly when compared to 2019, when the city only reported 481 murders, which means there has been a 63% increase in the number of homicides over the last couple of years.
There have also been more than 500 additional reported criminal sexual assaults (a 29% increase) in 2021 compared to 2020. Motor vehicle theft has also increased in 2021, as the Chicago PD has reported a total of 10,272 cases compared to the 9,561 of 2020.
Although violent crime, particularly murder, is definitely on the rise in Chicago other criminal activities have been experiencing a reduction since 2019, as the Chicago PD has reported a 44% drop in burglaries reported between 2019-2021 and an 18% decrease in robberies.
Lightfoot also requested a temporary moratorium on the city’s electronic monitoring program (EMP), which puts suspected criminals who are waiting for trial into electronic surveillance instead than in jail as a way to ease the overcrowding of the city’s prisons. According to the official website of the Cook County Sheriff’s office, the EMP has had over 300,000 individuals put under the program since its creation in 1989, and there is a daily average of 3,000 people under the program per day.
The mayor said that “the cumulative effect of having almost 2,300 violent, dangerous offenders has reached a tipping point… many of our neighborhoods are up for grabs.”, she also remembered the case of 7-year-old Jaslyn Adams, who was shot and killed at a fast-food drive-in by someone under the electronic monitoring program.
In 2020, the federal government also sent hundreds of federal agents to help the city’s law enforcement agents to quash crime during “Operation Legend” where federal agents charged 176 defendants with federal crimes, former Attorney general William Barr even credited the operation with the dip on crime the city experienced during the last months of 2020—a claim that the mayor of Chicago contested.
Although the program was quickly ended after Biden assumed office in January, after some very tough months for the city, the recent request for a more sustained federal assistance program to fight crime looks very similar to the program that was implemented during the last months of the Trump administration.
Lightfoot’s request also comes after a slew of cities decided to revert their initial decisions to reduce funding to police departments in 2020, after many cities in the nation suffered a significant rise in violent crime.