“You wouldn’t know it by watching the news or listening to the haters. But on crime, Mayor Lightfoot’s got a plan.” At least, that’s what a commercial touting Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot and her campaign for reelection would have you believe. Lightfoot is running for a second term in a tight mayoral race that culminates on February 28, with a potential April 4 run-off.
It’s no wonder that the progressive mayor is striving to give the impression that she’s got a grip on public safety. The Windy City’s surge in crime over the last few years has been stunning even by hardened big-city standards.
Chicago Police Department (CPD) statistics for the week ending on February 19 reveal that reported crime overall is up 55% so far this year as compared to 2022; the rise is even more shocking when compared with 2021, with a 107% jump in crime year-over-year. Every major crime category tracked by the CPD, with the exception of murder and “shooting incidents,” shows double- or even triple-digit increases over the last two years. Vehicle thefts have skyrocketed, accelerating by an incredible 255% between 2021 and 2023.
This coincides with what one source describes as a downward trajectory for arrest rates over the last two decades, with CPD officers making arrests in just 12% of crimes reported in 2021; for “index crimes” (like homicide, sexual assault, robbery, burglary and aggravated battery/assault), the overall arrest rate was less than 6%.
These crime statistics haven’t gone unnoticed by residents – the “haters” dismissed by the Lightfoot campaign. A recent poll of Chicago voters shows that, by a very large margin, “crime and personal safety” is the most pressing concern, with 44% of respondents ranking it as their “most important issue” (the number two spot trails behind at 13%). When asked, “how safe do you personally feel from gun violence and crime in Chicago?,” more than half of likely voters said they felt either “not too safe” (28%) or “not safe” (33%). Only four percent replied they felt “very safe.”
Two-thirds of voters are also unhappy with progressive prosecution policies. Sixty-seven percent replied they disapproved “of the way the criminal justice system in Chicago handles those who are arrested for certain violent crimes such as carjacking, armed robbery or home invasion.”
Speaking at her 2019 inauguration, Mayor Lightfoot described her new “unified strategy to prevent violence and promote public safety.” “People cannot …and should not …live in neighborhoods that resemble a war zone,” she said, adding that “[p]ublic safety must not be a commodity that is only available to the wealthy.” Since then, of course, crime has spiraled upwards, and it’s been reported that Lightfoot and her family have been protected by a special police security detail of approximately 71 officers, plus the mayor’s “separate personal bodyguard detail” of 20 officers.
For ordinary citizens without access to a personal police army, the recourse is the Second Amendment and safeguarding one’s own security. “It’s the reason why you’ve seen the increase in gun sales… Because people realize that the police and law enforcement broadly isn’t being allowed – the criminal justice system isn’t being allowed – to go and do its job,” observes Dr. John Lott, president and founder of the Crime Prevention Research Center. Just this month, there have been at least two instances where lawfully armed citizens thwarted crime in Chicago. The first is that of an 80-year-old man, recovering from surgery, who reportedly fought and shot a home invader breaking into his home, leaving a “13-time felon in critical condition.” In the second, a concealed carry holder at his home apprehended an alleged burglar (with two active felony warrants) and held him at gunpoint until the police arrived.
The mayor’s plans for a safer Chicago, both in 2019 and looking ahead today, won’t include recognizing the gun rights of responsible citizens. Lightfoot speaks of firearms as if they are divorced from the criminals that use them, and has called for more “sweeping and aggressive gun control” at the federal level, including a ban on AR-15s. After Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) pointed to Chicago’s crime rates as evidence that gun control and disarming law-abiding citizens don’t work, Lightfoot shot back that the majority of guns seized in Chicago were from out of state, “mostly from states dominated by coward Republicans like you,” as if crime was entirely a problem of guns, not criminals. (Readers may decide for themselves which narrative best fits the recent case of a Chicago criminal with two pending felony cases – one for armed violence – who allegedly traveled to Indiana, cut off his ankle monitor, and was caught in Illinois with another gun.)
Politicians of all stripes are notorious for making ridiculously extravagant campaign promises, and in that spirit the mayor’s reelection ad is free to boast that “Lightfoot won’t quit until we’re the safest big city in America.” For Chicago’s beleaguered residents who have been watching the news – as well as being attacked, robbed, carjacked, and burgled – well, talk is cheap, and maybe the criminals are paying attention.