In the spring, when temperatures rise in Chicago, so does crime. And when crime spikes in Chicago, we feel it in other parts of the state too, including here in Northwest Illinois.
When the Cook County State’s Attorney chooses not to press charges or hold offenders when crimes occur, most are back on the street within hours of an arrest. Many go on to commit new crimes, and they don’t limit those crimes to Chicago. We have seen an uptick in crime in this area, and I believe it is a direct result of Cook County’s soft-on-crime policies.
The widespread violence and destruction on Michigan Avenue and in Millennium Park the weekend of April 15 by hundreds of teens was truly shocking. By the time the violence subsided, three teens had been shot, numerous cars had been lit on fire or vandalized, and at least one individual in a car was severely beaten.
Equally as shocking as the teen violence was the response by Mayor-Elect Brandon Johnson, and by a sitting State Senator who represents parts of Chicago. Johnson said while he did not condone the violence, “it is not constructive to demonize youth who have otherwise been starved of opportunities in their own communities.” Evidently, in Johnson’s mind, those who condemned the violence and spoke out against those who perpetrated it were the ones in the wrong. Chicagoans and tourists who wanted to enjoy an unseasonably warm evening in the City were off base for blaming unsupervised youth for inciting violence.
At about the same time, a current Senator took to Twitter and said this: “I would look at the behavior of young people as a political act and statement. It’s a mass protest against poverty and segregation.” So shooting people, smashing car windows and beating random motorists are now acceptable forms of protest? Wow.
In my opinion, it is precisely this lack of accountability that is driving up crime across our state. Majority party policymakers are simply not interested in the accountability piece of the crime prevention puzzle.
There is actually a law on Illinois’ books called the Parental Responsibility Law. It was enacted in 1969, and provides that parents and guardians can face legal action for damages for the willful or malicious acts of the minors in their charge that cause injury to property or to another person. The law allows for damages up to $20,000. The statute is rarely used, but perhaps it’s time to dust it off and start using it.
Similarly, another law on the Illinois books, signed in 2013 by then Governor Pat Quinn, doubles prison sentences for those who utilize social media to organize mob-style violence. Interestingly, this 2013 penalty enhancement law was sponsored by recently-departed Deputy Governor Christian Mitchell and current Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, both of whom previously served in Democratic Caucuses of the General Assembly. The organizers of the violence on Michigan Avenue and in Millennium Park were able to mobilize hundreds of teens in a very short period of time. It’s a pretty good guess that social media was used, so why don’t we pull this law back out and use it against those who incited the mob action?
It is beyond time that Illinois get serious about holding criminals, regardless of their age, accountable for their actions. The millions of dollars the state spends annually on violence prevention programs are not enough. Prevention must be paired with stiff consequences for those who break the law with complete disregard for other people or property.
There is no denying that kids, and adults for that matter, need opportunities and prevention strategies. But they also need to know they will be held to account if they commit an act of violence. If we are to have any hope of getting a handle on the dumpster fire we know as Chicago, crime must be addressed from every angle.