Illinois Justice Project

Question TWO

Gun Violence Prevention

Although public sentiment might suggest that violence in Chicago is at an all-time high, Chicago has experienced a steady decline in murders over the past decades, from nearly 900 homicides in years throughout the 1990s to 473 in 2015.  In 2016, however, Chicago saw 765 murders, the most in two decades. The previously cited statistics do not incorporate the countless number of Chicago residents who have been injured by gun violence, live with the trauma of having a victim of gun violence among their family or friends, or witness gun violence. 2017 and 2018 has seen drops in murder, but despite the numbers, gun violence at any rate is unacceptable.

Cited as causes for the jump in violence were the growing lack of investment in at-risk communities, limited resources for addressing mental health and substance use, easy access to illegal guns, poor community-police relations, falling clearance rates, a withdrawn police force and an ineffective justice system.

Lightfoot

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Are there particular causes, of the ones cited above, that you believe have had the greatest impact on gun violence or causes on the list that had little impact in your opinion?  Are the others causes not on the list, that you believe caused the spike or initiated the most recent drop?  If elected, what would you do to help improve bond court practice and outcomes across the state?  

As set forth in my detailed public safety plan, we cannot arrest our way out of our violence problem. Instead, the city and its partners must treat this epidemic of violence as the public health crisis that it is. This means addressing the root causes of violence by revitalizing economically distressed neighborhoods, ensuring access to quality schools in every neighborhood, eliminating food and medical deserts, and providing a pathway to good jobs that pay a living wage. In addition, we must follow the lead of cities like Boston and Oakland and increase the resources devoted to violence interruption techniques so we can stop violence before it happens.

Furthermore, the city, philanthropic foundations and local businesses must place more emphasis on, and commit more resources to, organizations across the city that help ease the transition of the thousands of citizens released annually from state and county jails back into society and the workforce. Providing legitimate jobs that pay a living wage is one of the best ways to reduce violence and recidivism and improve our communities.

To stop violence, we must also be much more proactive in stopping the flow of illegal guns that fuel violence. This requires a proactive, coordinated response from law enforcement that must be led by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, in coordination with the ATF, FBI, DEA, the CPD and state and county law enforcement, as well as federal counterparts in states like Indiana, Wisconsin and Mississippi, from which large sources of illegal guns flow. We must target the traffickers, felons in possession and straw purchasers with an effective carrot (social service support and jobs for those who leave the criminal life) and stick (stepped up prosecutions for serious offenders) approach. In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s office must significantly increase the number of illegal gun cases prosecuted in Chicago.

To ensure that the city has a comprehensive public health approach to addressing violence and overall public safety, I will create a Mayor’s Office of Public Safety, a first of its kind in Chicago. There are currently only two full-time personnel on the mayor’s personal staff devoted to the broad public safety needs of the city such as police, fire, homeland security, emergency management of natural and man-made disasters, and 911 and other emergency services. This is woefully inadequate, particularly when compared with the resources devoted by the mayors of New York City and Los Angeles. Competent stewardship of the city’s public safety needs and infrastructure requires a real commitment of resources and expertise. And that is precisely what I will bring to the job.

We also must strengthen existing state gun laws, sign into law legislation regulating gun dealers, and support federal legislation that makes gun trafficking a federal crime. State legislators can strengthen existing laws to discourage straw purchasers and punish traffickers, as well as address problems arising from the failure to report lost or stolen guns, and the governor can sign legislation requiring gun dealers to certify their federal license with the Illinois State Police and take measures to protect against straw purchases. On a federal level, Congress can pass Representative Robin Kelly’s Gun Trafficking Prevention Act, which would make gun trafficking a federal crime and would increase penalties for straw purchasers.

 The next mayoral administration also must do more to support CPD, which is reporting that for 2018 it seized approximately 9,7000 illegal guns, which is twice the illegal crime guns seized in New York and Los Angeles combined. This means creating a single office in CPD to track illegal guns and gun arrests across the city, increasing the number of hours CPD’s crime lab is open, the number of firearms examiners and the number of shifts examiners are available to process gun crime evidence. It also means purchasing a $300,000 mobile ballistics laboratory that can be dispatched immediately to shooting scenes and which can process ballistics information in hours, instead of days. (This mobile lab costs less than the average amount CPD spent per day on overtime between 2013 and 2017.)

Is there a change in policy, or multiple policies, that you will make as Mayor of Chicago that will address the causes outlined above and lower gun violence?

See answer above.

The previous administration opined that increasing sentencing on illegal gun possessors is a successful strategy for reducing gun violence because it incapacitates bad actors and deters future illegal acts. Opponents have cited that the current State sentencing structures for gun possession is already among the highest in the nation and changes won’t provide any extra deterrence given the police case closure rate and economic status of communities. They further argue that public resources now spent on incarceration would be better diverted toward elevated investment in at-risk communities as a strategy for reducing violence and risky conduct before it happens. What is your opinion on this issue?

I do not believe there is a one-size-fits-all answer as to the appropriate length of incarceration and punishment for gun offenses in Chicago. As a former federal prosecutor and lawyer who represented, on a pro bono basis, people who had been wrongfully convicted, I know that context matters.

Of course there is a role for incarceration and punishment as a deterrent for people who have committed gun crimes, as a deterrent for others, and as a demonstration to victims and the public that there is justice. When possible, we should use diversion programs for first-time offenders and low-level offenses. I also support eliminating cash bail—our jails should not be debtors’ prisons for the poor. I have long supported the work of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and others to advocate for the elimination of this system. Lastly, must educate children about the dangers of gun violence to prevent these crimes from being committed in the first place.. 

Do you support the creation of the Office of Violence Prevention? What is your opinion on public health approaches to reducing gun violence? 

See answer above.


Are there particular causes, of the ones cited above, that you believe have had the greatest impact on gun violence or causes on the list that had little impact in your opinion?  Are the others causes not on the list, that you believe caused the spike or initiated the most recent drop?  If elected, what would you do to help improve bond court practice and outcomes across the state?  

I believe that all the issues you have stated have had an impact on gun violence. But there is another major issue that you didn’t mention: guns illegally trafficked into Illinois. Approximately 60% of the illegal guns found by CPD originated out of state. Reducing the flow of these guns is a critical component of reducing gun violence in Chicago.

Is there a change in policy, or multiple policies, that you will make as Mayor of Chicago that will address the causes outlined above and lower gun violence?

As Mayor, I will create the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (OCJ) and utilize it to ensure that Chicago’s public safety plan includes strategic leadership, coordination, and the implementation of a comprehensive set of violence reduction strategies and interventions. To increase investment in underserved communities, I will ensure that the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund is more supportive of small and medium businesses in underserved communities by paying in real-time for projects, a change from the current practice of rebates for money spent. This will ensure that low liquidity isn’t a barrier to the success of local enterprises. To improve mental health outcomes, I will ensure that trained mental health professionals, in collaboration with the city’s Department of Public Health and Office of Emergency Management, work with and in some cases lead, the response to mental health crisis cases.

Through the OCJ, I will urge Illinois’ Governor to sign Senate Bill 337, which requires Illinois gun dealers to be licensed by the Illinois State Police and increases their responsibilities to restrict straw purchases. Secondly, we will work with the state legislature on legislation that lowers the burden of proof for straw purchases, preventing guns from ending up in the hands of those prohibited from owning guns.  Finally, the OCJ will convene a taskforce of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to better share information and coordinate operations to disrupt trafficking networks. We believe that this new level of coordination with state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Attorney’s office, will lead to an increase in federal gun prosecutions for the most prolific gun traffickers targeting the Chicago area. This must also include asking Attorney General Kwame Raoul, given his strong record opposing gun violence, to file a lawsuit against the State of Indiana and others, stopping the source of most of the crime guns recovered by the Chicago police.

I will work to improve the relations between CPD and the local community by acknowledging past abuses and working to create a culture of accountability. I will also institute greater civilian accountability over CPD, by instituting the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability’s proposal to create the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, a civilian committee, to appoint the Chicago Police Board, the Chief Administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (“COPA”) and recommend candidates for Superintendent for approval of the Mayor. The Commission would also take the lead in setting policy and strategy in collaboration with CPD leadership and the community it represents.

To increase clearance rates and effectiveness, I will increase the number of personnel dedicated to looking at raw physical data involved with homicides. With additional resources, detectives could spend more time with officers on the beat, developing their own relationships with communities prior to shooting and homicide events. These relationships will allow CPD detectives to build trust before they need it. Finally, as Mayor, I will encourage the entire CPD and detectives especially, to improve collaboration with prosecutors at the State’s Attorney Office; bringing them in earlier to ensure that the strongest cases are built.

The previous administration opined that increasing sentencing on illegal gun possessors is a successful strategy for reducing gun violence because it incapacitates bad actors and deters future illegal acts. Opponents have cited that the current State sentencing structures for gun possession is already among the highest in the nation and changes won’t provide any extra deterrence given the police case closure rate and economic status of communities. They further argue that public resources now spent on incarceration would be better diverted toward elevated investment in at-risk communities as a strategy for reducing violence and risky conduct before it happens. What is your opinion on this issue?

It is very important not to treat all ‘gun offenders’ as interchangeable.  There is a major difference between a person who uses a gun to frighten or harm another and a young man or young woman who carries a gun to school or to work because they are afraid of being attacked en-route.   Harsh penalties will not deter frightened people but they will derail their lives.  We must invest in better street lighting, transportation, housing, and businesses at the same time that we pursue gun offenders.  We need eyes on the street to improve safety in neighborhoods made more dangerous because they have lost density. 

Do you support the creation of the Office of Violence Prevention? What is your opinion on public health approaches to reducing gun violence? 

Yes, I absolutely support the creation of the Office of Violence Prevention (OVP) and as County Board President, I was a vocal advocate of establishing such an office that would coordinate the drafting of a comprehensive, public health focused, strategic plan for reducing violence across the city.  In addition to my work within the criminal justice system, particularly in Bond reform and ensuring that those involved in the system have access to resources, I charged my staff to work closely with the Mayor and other public safety stakeholders during the planning process for the creation of the OVP which has had renewed energy over the last year. 

I have long advocated for a public health approach to violence and believe that the best way to curb it is to treat the root causes of that violence, much of which stems from trauma and divestment in community infrastructure, and a lack in quality education, mental health services and economic opportunity.

 We know from research and common sense, that violence causes trauma that leads to more violence unless victims receive the help and support they need.  It is crucial that all victims of trauma are treated including those who have not led blameless lives.  

 Using data and research available, I will work with community organizations to begin a strategic and coordinated alignment of community resources combined with an expansion and replication of proven models to stop violence before it starts in Chicago. Fortunately, there has been much work already done both here and in other jurisdictions that have been able to see an increase in public safety.The leadership and political will to implement a comprehensive plan and identify the resources needed will be key goals of my administration.

Preckwinkle

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