By Donna More
Chicago is a crime spree in progress. Homicides in Cook County have topped 1,000, nearly 800 of them in Chicago. A stroll in the park or a trip to the grocery is a journey into harm’s way as accused murderers, violent gun offenders, armed robbers, and muggers are let loose to reign lawlessness on our community.
The effects of all this hit home this summer when my daughter got her driver’s license. With carjacking at a record high, we spent an evening training her how to defend herself against an armed attempt to steal her car, or worse, violate her. It brought new meaning to the question, “Do you really want to raise your children in Cook County?”
The driver’s training experience reminded me why I ran for State’s Attorney against Kim Foxx. As a mom fearful for all our children, I repeatedly warned voters of the peril of electing a chief prosecutor without felony trial experience whose idea of justice discounts the essential precept of individual accountability.
While all the blame for the Chicago crime plague does not fall on the State’s Attorney, the correlation between her time in office and our growing sense of wild-west-style insecurity cannot be ignored. As we all know, her notion of prosecution is formulated with racial animus and a notable bias toward non-charging as a way to correct to past injustices.
Foxx cites a raft of statistics to refute claims that she is soft on crime. She angrily told reporters recently that the narrative accusing her of not charging cases “hurt my heart.” Apparently, it doesn’t hurt enough to take the steps necessary to halt the narrative by applying prosecutorial norms like the accepted standard of probable cause as a basis for charging violent crimes and the use of pre-trial detention as a strategy for protecting the community from further criminal violence.
Foxx and her likeminded judicial partners in Cook County Chief Judge Tim Evans’ criminal courts seem to have abandoned these time-tested criminal justice strategies. As a result, people accused of murder, rape, robbery, and armed carjacking – many caught on video – are released to terrorize witnesses and heap more violence on our neighborhoods.
In high-profile cases where the State’s Attorney refuses to file charges, the excuse is the same: prosecutors can’t meet their burden of proof.
But everyone knows that charging isn’t about proof beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s about having enough evidence to support a belief that a person committed a violent crime, so they can be detained while prosecutors build and perfect their cases to meet the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Foxx’s defense of her charging practices relies on deflection. She never tells communities why violent defendants aren’t being charged. Instead, she veers to bail reform, electronic monitoring, and a one-third reduction in the inmate population at Cook County jail.
All are laudable reforms, of course, provided public safety isn’t compromised. But there’s the rub. Foxx cleverly cants toward these reforms suggesting they are goals with higher values than personal security.
“I want to help make Cook County a more inclusive and thriving community, where everyone is welcome,” she told supporters after her election in 2020. “I pledge to keep pushing for that change, that is fair, that is just, that is equitable, that will keep our communities safe.”
It’s an artful dodge, completely in accord with her political agenda. But the evidence suggests that public safety – the issue that finishes last on her list of priorities – has been marginalized by the approach she and her followers espouse.
A Harris Poll this summer asked city residents to rate their neighborhood safety on a scale of 1-10. The result was a mind-numbing rating of 5.3 overall, and 4.5 among Blacks. The latter number ought to give Foxx the greatest pause. The very population for whom she professes inclusion and a thriving community is the one that is feeling least protected.
Feeling unsafe notwithstanding, there are plenty of data points to substantiate the uneasiness citizens have about the state of criminal activity in Chicago. Take electronic monitoring, for example, the solution du jour for jail reformers.
Since Foxx took office, there are four and a half times as many accused murderers on electronic monitoring, according to the Cook County Sheriff. Over the same span, people charged with armed violence while out on electronic monitoring went up seven and half times.
Monitored defendants charged with aggravated gun possession were four times higher, felony gun possession rose 1700 percent, and aggravated battery was up 178 percent.
Statistics from the Chicago Crime Lab give magnitude to the infestation of criminal activity in our community. The gun death toll is over 700 and another 3,400 have been wounded. More than half the deaths have come from eight southside neighborhoods.
When Foxx looks out from her arm-guarded security bubble to offload blame, police get it, the insinuation being that they aren’t doing their job, they don’t cooperate, and they don’t produce evidence sufficient to support charging.
Worse, she would have us believe that police constitute an armed threat to public safety.
Against that narrative is the fact that there have been only 9 police involved shootings in Chicago this year. In addition, last summer’s Harris Poll revealed 82 percent of Chicago residents agree that increased police presence is necessary for reducing gun violence in the city, a paradox that lies in stunning opposition to Chicago’s catch and release prosecutor.
So, what exactly can we do to stanch the rise in crime? Three near term strategies would help immeasurably.
First, adopt a singleness of purpose. People are dying in our streets while mayors, board presidents, prosecutors, and law enforcement turn their backs on each other … and thus they turn their backs on the problem.
It’s time to get over it and get into rooms and work together to develop a strategy
Next, fix the problem instead of affixing the blame. There is ample proof – decades worth, in fact – that the blame game doesn’t produce results.
As US Attorney John Lausch recently noted, “(The) job as a prosecutor is pretty simple. We have to be fair first and foremost, we have to be tough when it’s appropriate, and we need to be merciful when it’s warranted. But we have to be fair all the time. And part of that is making sure that we’re holding people accountable because the community depends upon us to do that.”
Next, it is long past time to address the root causes of crime: the demise of the nuclear family, the failure of public education, and the misappropriation of social programs. For decades we have directed funds to these problems without examining outcomes and making the corrections and interventions needed to make a difference.
Finally, we voters have to take back our city.
We need to elect people with the courage to look the problem in the eye and dispense with political agendas, and prioritize public safety. In the end, if we don’t use the ballot box to restore accountability to the system, we will be doomed to the murderous status quo.
John Kass note: Donna More is a former state and federal prosecutor and a nationally recognized regulatory compliance lawyer. She ran against Kim Foxx in 2020 hoping to bring a balance between aggressive prosecution and compassionate justice to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. It is the profound loss of the people of Chicago and Cook County, that she was not elected Cook County State’s Attorney.