Chicago Mayoral Election 2023

How Each of Chicago's 9 Mayoral Candidates Say They Would Address Crime, Public Safety

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As the Chicago Mayoral election draws near, the crowded field of nine candidates, including incumbent Lori Lightfoot, took the stage Thursday for their first televised debate and sparred for 90 minutes over a number of issues, ranging from migrants bussed to the city, to youth mental health services, to a new Chicago Bears stadium in Arlington Heights.

The first topic of the night however, was one that is top of mind for voters across the city: Crime and public safety.

The first round of the election is slated for Feb. 28. If no candidate receives 50% of the vote in that election, then the top-two candidates would advance to a run-off, scheduled for April 4.

Here's a breakdown of what each of the nine candidates said about their approach to crime, and the case each of them made to voters.

Ja’Mal Green

Our main concern of our administration is to make sure that we're addressing the root causes of public safety.

Politicians have been continuing to do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. And that's why we're here today, we must make sure that we are investing into neighborhoods so that we create new homeowners and thriving business corridors, that we're investing into young people where they have apprenticeships. We reopen up those mental health facilities, we make sure that we institute trade and tech hubs back into our school system, so they have a pipeline of middle class jobs. And police will be the support system, we must address the root causes and give folks alternatives and allow them to live middle-class lives all throughout the city of Chicago.

Ald. Sophia King

Safety is the number one, two, and three issue that's facing our city. I represent from downtown to Hyde Park with Brownsville in the middle. And the number one request I get is for more police presence. Now, we know that police are not the only solution, we have to get to the root causes, which is why I have a plan that does both. So I also know that we can both uplift police. We can hold them accountable. We can have safety and justice. And that's the type of leadership that I'll bring to the fifth floor.

We need more police. They're not our sole solution to this issue. But we have a plan that puts police in the communities where they belong. Right now they are not equitably distributed. I had an issue the other day where a group of people called 911 because they saw young men with guns -- military grade -- and the police did not show up. The beat cops were somewhere else.

We need to make sure that this is a priority. We need to make sure we have equitable distribution of police and that they're in the places where we need them the most.

State Rep. Kam Buckner

Make no mistake about it -- the murder rate in Chicago is too high. And the clearance rate is terribly too low. What you hear a lot tonight from a lot of my colleagues here is that the answer to this is things like drones or militarization of our police force, or defunding the police. None of these are the right answer. What we have to do is make sure we invest in safety and justice and have a balanced approach. I've put forth a plan that does exactly that. Putting money in communities and people are doing the work on the ground.

Last week I was in Little Village, talking to tamale vendors about the fact that they're scared. And they don't think that the city is doing enough to give them any real protection. One gentleman told me that the police squads were rolling by a little bit more frequently, but it still was not enough. We have to find a way for CPD to coordinate with our different organizations within our community for our street vendors. But also, we change our automatic and congressional and State Representative maps every 10 years -- we need to go back and look at how we can change our district map to make sure that we can be strategic, strategic, and tactical. So we can put our resources in the right places, so people can not just feel safe, but actually be safe.

Dr. Willie Wilson

Well, I'm definitely pro policeman. I mean, taking some of the strict rules and regulations of the police officers so they can do their job. Take the handcuffs off the policeman put them on people who's actually doing it...making sure that police get their off days... expanding the retirement age from 63 to 65. So we can bring in more police officers to get the job done until we get back up to speed.

I think you have to add more police officers, and you must take some of these rules off the police officers and make sure they can do the job and do the proper way. A lot of the rules, they're afraid to arrest somebody for fear that they're gonna get arrested himself. So you've got to encourage people to do the job. People cannot be scared on the job. So I will make sure we relaxed the policy and use common sense.

Brandon Johnson

This is something that we're feeling all over the city of Chicago. It's a serious problem. And it is very personal. My wife and I are raising our family on the west side of Chicago. And we've recently had to change a window from one of the bullets that have come to our home. Now what you're going to hear on this stage is the same old talking points from 40 years ago, that has failed the so-called toughness. And do you feel any safer? That's why you have to be tough and smart. So I'm calling for full investment in youth and employment. There's a direct correlation between youth employment and violence, production, mental health care services, and making sure that we're doing everything in our power to invest in communities, under my administration, we're going to do what works, and that's investing in people.

What's disappointing about this conversation is that you have politicians and insiders that continue to use the same talking points year after year after year. We spend more on policing per capita than anywhere else in the country. And yet, we're not safe. But how will you begin? So here's how we protect workers because I'm supported by workers. I am a worker, you actually have to invest in people. It's pretty straightforward. There's a direct correlation between youth employment and violence reduction. Here's what we also have to do. We have to make sure that we are providing support on the front lines with mental health care responders, because most of the calls that are coming through our mental health crises, we need to relieve the pressure off the law enforcement so they can focus on protecting those vendors. That's what my plan is.

Paul Vallas

What we need to do is return to a community policing strategy that has beat cops on every beat, and a community policing strategy that has Chicago police officers at CTA platforms and CTA stations riding the trains intermittently. Last year, there were over 400 high priority 911 calls that were not responded to, including 32,000 assaults. When you have that level of unresponsiveness, you have rising crime. And when you don't make arrests, you have no accountability. So at the end of the day, we've got to return to a policing strategy in which there are police officers covering their beats, and police officers providing protection on the transit system.

The bottom line is, we're short police officers. There were 1,700 police officers down when the mayor took office, and we have private security. $100 million dollars in private security can't make arrests. The bottom line is there's no substitution for having beat cops who can respond to the 911 calls. When you have 32,000, 911 calls high priority not responded to those, you're talking about the question I'm talking about. I'm talking about assaults and batteries in progress. That means there are not enough police resources available. So we have to fill the ranks. We have to push the police officers down to the local beats. And we have to put police officers on mass transit. That's the only way that we're going to have the resources to respond.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Well, of course, my primary goal is to make sure that Chicago is the safest big city in the country. And we've made progress, year over year, ending down 14% in homicides and 20% in shootings. But I recognize that people in the city don't feel safe. So we've got to keep working on the strategy that we know is making progress, taking the guns out of the hands of criminals, holding violent, dangerous people accountable, and making sure that we hire more police. 950 were hired last year. We've hired over 200 detectives, but progress is something that we've got to keep making. We've got to make sure that we're holding ourselves accountable, and we've got to listen to the people in neighborhoods are closest to the challenges because they're closest to the solutions will make the investments that we are necessary to keep our streets.

You asked about what we are doing with the vendors in Little Village. We've been working with those vendors hand-in-glove to make sure that they are doing things that they can do to protect themselves, like not using cash, making sure that the cash that they do take in is secure. But I'll tell you the thing that we don't do. We don't protect workers. We don't protect residents by blaming the police for not showing up for not making arrests for not responding to calls. You've heard a lot of rhetoric here, a lot of sound bites, but not a lot of concrete solutions on how we get the job done and make our residents and our workers safe. We're doing our job every single day.

Ald. Roderick Sawyer

Obviously, during safety, we want to make sure we have an effective police force. And having an effective police force, also a constitutionally compliant police to force, we want to make sure that they're abiding by the reforms they have geographic integrity. But we also have to look at what we're doing. We don't talk to children enough when we're talking about youth related crime. We need to listen more to our youth -- engage with them, and really work on that together in order to really ramp down crime. And that's part of our plan.

Rep. Jesús ‘Chuy’ García

I published my plan last week at the City Club. It basically consists of ensuring that our department is fully staffed, fully funded, and modernized. There will be new leadership in the Chicago Police Department that will implement the consent decree. It's the roadmap to ensuring greater tranquility in Chicago. In addition to that, there will be comprehensive community development and investment in communities. We will invest in violence prevention, I have the history and the experience in doing that. Chicago can become safer -- building trust between community residents and the police is at the heart of ensuring that we have a safer Chicago.

The vendors you refer to are my neighbors. They live in and around my house, I'm concerned about them. What I would do is prioritize violent crime, I would move some of the citywide units to patrolling streets in neighborhoods across Chicago, I would hire more civilians to free up uniformed personnel who would prioritize violent crime. Because in Chicago, we've had a reputation where there's an 85% chance you can get away with murder and not be convicted. It has emboldened criminals to go out there and prey on people trying to make an honest living. These are the types of changes in my public safety plan.

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