CHICAGO—As Chicago aldermen took turns questioning Police Superintendent David Brown about an alarming crime wave on Friday, Brown said police officers had done their utmost and that the blame should be directed at the court system which had sent too many violent offenders back on the street.
About 20 aldermen requested the special city council meeting with Brown following two violent weekends that saw 24 people killed and 114 injured in Chicago. The day before the meeting, a 1-month-old baby and a 9-year-old girl were both shot in the head; another 8-year-old girl was shot in the arm.
“This is happening because there is too much advocacy for violent offenders and too little consequences for their behavior in the courts,” Brown told the aldermen at the meeting.
Brown highlighted the growing number of violent suspects sent back into the community before trials by Cook County judges on the electronic monitoring system, a GPS-style tracking device attached on suspects’ ankles for monitoring whereabouts.
He cited a Chicago Tribune analysis which found over 90 suspects charged with murder were out on electronic monitoring by mid-May; whereas four years ago, that number was about 30. And about 570 suspects charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon were out on electronic monitoring by the same time; four years ago, that number was about 180. In total, violent suspects on electronic monitoring have bloomed from hundreds to thousands this year.
According to Brown, some of these suspects soon committed violent crimes again, including murder. Last month, Dominique Johnson, while out on electronic monitoring, killed his girlfriend and then committed suicide on the South Side of Chicago. In March, Dakari Davis, while out on electronic monitoring, shot at a 45-year-old man twice in an attempted carjacking.
Alderman Byron Lopez repudiated Brown’s reasoning, citing Loyola University research that suggests pretrial releases have not significantly increased crime following a 2017 Cook County felony bail reform. The research collects data up until late 2019 and does not account for the pandemic period when courts drastically increased jail releases.
“I would ask those researchers to move over to the South and West Side of Chicago and come back with their conclusions. Just one night,” Brown said. South and West Side bear the brunt of shootings in the city.
“When you say ‘a few people’ recommitted crimes [while out on electronic monitoring], to the victims, that’s everything,” Brown said. “‘A few people’ are problematic in our neighborhood. ‘A few people’ committed a murder-suicide this month. ‘A few people’ stabbed someone to death this month. That ‘few people,’ for the victims, is everything.”
The special council meeting took place right before the Fourth of July weekend, traditionally one of the most violent weekends for Chicago. Last year, 17 were killed and 63 others were injured over the weekend.
Chicago Police Department (CPD) Chief of Patrol Brian McDermott also briefed aldermen on the deployment plans for the Fourth of July weekend and the rest of summer. He said the CPD will be laser-focused on the fifteen most violent neighborhoods on the South and West Side of Chicago. CPD will also work with other governmental agencies and community organizations to collectively combat the crime.
As of July 2, 364 people were murdered and 1,654 injured this year in Chicago, largely due to gunshots. This year’s record almost matches that of 2020, the pandemic year that saw sharp increases in shootings in the city.