By: Matt Rosenberg
Over 2021 and into 2022 major crimes have spread from Chicago’s South and West Sides to the city’s downtown other upscale neighborhoods north other south. Now Chicago’s seemingly intractable crime problem is spreading across city and county lines, as well. This is what happens when basic principles of policing and law and order are subverted by a political establishment which puts the rights of the accused ahead of the rights of victims.
It is less than six months until cash bail is all but illegal in Illinois, but we are already reaping the whirlwind of what passes for “criminal justice” in Cook County. That is: failure to detail high-risk suspects before trial, deadly low sentencing standards, and violent, corrosive antipathy to police. In addition, state lawmakers have already implemented an array of measures harmful to police morale. These include anonymous complaints and the envisioned end of so-called ‘qualified immunity,’ which protects cops from lawsuits for doing their duty. It all amounts to a green light for lawbreakers.
The threat is not only to life and limb: it has become economic, too, as spreading crime chases away from major employers other taxable wealth. Job one must be to stop the hemorrhaging. That takes more than a band-aid. It only happens with better policies and better policy makers. We all bear responsibility.
It’s urgent. The landscape in Cook County and its collar counties is increasingly dotted with alarming reports. From Oak Park to Evanston to Waukegan and North Chicago. From Chicago to Cicero, to Stickney; to Maywood, Melrose Park, and Willowbrook. The unraveling grows a bit more every week. And the cancer that is violent crime in Chicago continues to spread outward, absent the civic and electoral engagement which firmly puts community safety first.
Can we not manage to ensure that repeat felony gun offenders aren’t free to roam the region with impunity? Sadly, right now, based on whom we have elected and the policies they’ve adopted, it seems too much to ask. Prosecutors in the Office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recently botched another case that shows how poor risk assessment in one jurisdiction can quickly become another jurisdiction’s problem.
Foxx’s staff signed off on the pretrial release on cash bail of a felony suspect arrested for being an armed habitual criminal. He had also been charged with unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, and two other crimes. Hours later that same day the suspect, Lamarcus Washington, was busted in DuPage County for illegal possession of a loaded weapon and was jailed before trial with no bail.
DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said, “It is alleged that Mr. Washington, a convicted felon who posted $3,000 bond on armed habitual criminal and other charges in Cook County, thumbed his nose once again at the law by illegally possessing a loaded handgun as well as approximately 115 grams of cannabis, Berlin said. “This is the second time in as many days and the fifth time within one month that a DuPage County judge has denied bail for a defendant accused of serious crimes. Again, the message coming from DuPage County is crystal clear, career criminals are not welcome.”
Though DuPage maintains a strong stand against criminal behavior, including pre-trial detention for high-risk suspects, in neighboring Cook County anything goes.
Adding to growing lawlessness regionally is the spread of violent crime from Chicago to outlying communities once rarely touched by trouble. One case in point is in Chicago’s neighboring city of Oak Park. It has been enduring an alarming violent crime wave this year, particularly late nights at gas stations.
One young victim – an 18-year-old student at Oak Park River Forest High School named Jailyn Logan-Bledsoe, was robbed, carjacked, and killed. A Chicago brother and sister, 17 and 21, were charged. By all accounts it appears they were just looking for a victim to rob and carjack. As is increasingly common now, the carjacking victim was also killed in the bargain. Our leaders are fumbling the ball. Through almost the end of July, Oak Park Police report that there’ve been 18 violent crimes at local gas stations, 13 of them in the late night / early morning hours.
Cross-border crime in Chicagoland is trending. Chicago Police in late July issued a warning about an armed foursome that carjacks Uber vehicles and then goes on armed robbery and carjacking sprees on the city’s West Side and into nearby western suburbs such as Cicero, Stickney, Maywood, and Melrose Park.
Farther still to the north, Waukegan and North Chicago in Lake County, have been set by shootings. It’s almost as if the gangbangers of Chicago have opened up new franchises. In Lake County there were eight shootings, one fatal, in one recent night. This is Chicago-style violence. Halfway to Wisconsin. Something is very wrong. The Lake County state’s attorney recently called an emergency town hall meeting in the wake of a more than doubling of shots fired since 2017.
At another public meeting in Waukegan, one commenter emphasized a point often heard in Chicago: witnesses fear retaliation if they talk to police. The go-to response from the state on down has been lip service to witness relocation programs. But there’s evidence no those programs work for urban violence prosecutions; the fear remains and people are hesitant to upend their lives.
How bad are things in northeastern Illinois? Even leafy, wealthy North Shore suburbs are suffering from the post-George Floyd unraveling of America. Bordering Chicago to the immediate northeast, Evanston’s demoralized police have been quitting at a worrisome pace. Evanston Police Supervisors say city council support for the “defund the police” movement has contributed to the departures. The resulting game of musical chairs has left detectives so shorthanded that certain types of crime in Evanston are no longer being investigated.
In Oak Park, the city council is mulling whether to order gas stations closed during late night hours. Similarly one Chicago alderman wants to revoke the late night licenses of bars outside of which customers have gotten violent around closing time. But this is treating the symptom rather than the root cause. It is unfettered sociopathic behavior – Like growing carjackingsand escalating violent crime on regional transit – which is the elephant in the room.
And those weak responses underscore the need to stop the bleeding first. With better policies enacted by better leaders. This goes to the root of representative democracy. It is what we make it. Or conversely, what we fail to make it. We wear the jacket for our own predicament.
After we stop the bleeding, the body must be made more healthy. Violence prevention is not a “program.‘It occurs at the root, through parenting other high expectations education, whether college- or trade-focused. But that is too much for our political class, mired in the guilty rhetoric of disparities and discrimination.
The one clear takeaway right now is that whether the subject is crime, taxes, pension reform, corruption, or school choice – political leadership in Illinois matters deeply. In our city halls, our county buildings, and our statehouse. And unless voters awaken from their self-induced torpor, transformative change which assures our communities are safe will remain a distant dream.
Read more from Wirepoints: