Chicago’s Law-And-Order Policies Are Failing Catastrophically


John Lott President, Crime Prevention Research Center
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Angry that the federal government cut funding to Chicago, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) claimed the Trump administration is contributing to the city’s violence. “So far this year, 3,000 people have been injured by gunshot in the city of Chicago and over 500 have been killed,” Durbin angrily told Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a hearing last week.

Chicago is a mess. Last year, Chicago had 762 homicides — more than New York and Los Angeles combined. In 2016, homicides were up an incredible 57 percent from 2015. This year’s total is closing in on last year’s.

But, despite the desire to blame others, Chicago’s problems have its own fault, and it is something that has been getting worse for decades.  Under Mayor Richard M. Daley the percentage of murders solved through arrest fell from 67 percent in 1991 to 30 percent in 2011.  It became still worse under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, hitting a new low of 20 percent in 2016. The true number is even worse, as Chicago Magazine and others have accused the city of intentionally or by incompetence misclassifying murders as non-murders.

Nationally, police solve around 60.2 percent of murders. And unlike Chicago’s arrest rate, the national rate has been fairly constant over the decades.

Chicago has been making bad political decisions long before Trump became president. They were making the same mistakes when the Obama administration was giving the city more than its fair share of federal dollars.

Guess what? When criminals aren’t worried about being arrested and punished, they commit more crimes.

Just look at what has happened under Mayor Emanuel.  He has closed down detective bureaus in high crime rate parts of the city and shutdown many gang task forces.  He has hamstrung police with all sorts of burdensome regulations that impede the ability of police to solve crime.

Relocating detective bureaus hasn’t gone well. One detective told Chicago Magazine: “All the expertise you once had is useless when you’re working on the other side of town. You might as well put me in a new city.”

Moving detectives’ offices from crime hotspots also meant having to travel farther to investigate. This was a waste of time and made detectives less effective at their jobs.

Mayor Emanuel also decided early in his administration to gut gang task forces. With arrest rates so low, witnesses are fearful to testify against gang members. The problem has snowballed.

One bad, self-serving political decision has led to another. Emanuel hid a damning video of police violence until after his re-election in 2015. To mitigate the political fallout, Emanuel acquiesced to the ACLU’s demands for additional police reporting requirements. Interviewing a single person can mean 45 minutes to an hour in paperwork. Talking to four people in the morning can mean spending the rest of the day in the office, filling out forms.

As arrest rates fell and murder rates rose, Daley and Emanuel kept pushing responsibility on others. In 2010, Daley claimed that the increased crime rate was, “All about guns, and that’s why the crusade is on.” Emanuel has made similar claims. The problem of unsolved crimes seems to have gone unnoticed.

Police are extremely important in deterring crime. It can’t be a surprise that crime rates go up when you don’t let them do their job. Chicago’s problems are the result of years of political ineptitude. Chicago politicians need to fix their failed policies instead of blaming things beyond their control.

John Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author most recently of “The War on Guns.”

Perspectives expressed in op-eds are not those of The Daily Caller.