As the city of Chicago battles an increase in carjackings and other violent crimes, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is calling for assistance from federal authorities to halt the flow of illegal weapons and reduce violence, including crimes inflicted by gangs.
Responding to calls to discuss the recent uptick in violence, Lightfoot held a public address Monday following a weekend that saw 23 shootings, including four fatalities.
The mayor has been largely focused on stopping gun trafficking, which she blames for bringing illegal weapons into the city.
In an effort to increase the number of gun investigations and seizures, Lightfoot formally requested that United States Attorney General Merrick Garland detail Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents in Chicago for six months. The mayor added she asked for additional prosecution resources as well as U.S. Marshals to assist local law enforcement.
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Chicago has continued to report troubling violence statistics in recent months and years.
Earlier in December, the city saw its 800th homicide victim of the year - a threshold that was commonly passed in the 1990s, but has been rare in recent years.
Murders have been increasing in the city for two straight years now, and shootings have been rising at an even faster rate, according to data from the Chicago Sun-Times.
At least 4,328 people had been shot in Chicago as of mid-December, according to police data, compared to 4,013 in 2020 and 2,556 in 2019 during the same periods.
Lightfoot emphasized that violence is and will continue to be her top priority, but stated it was important to provide national context regarding violence, noting "almost every major and midsize" city is experiencing similar challenges.
In July, the mayor said she supported a variety of federal responses to tackle the problem, including additional “strike force” teams offered by President Joe Biden. However, she pushed back against the idea of having the National Guard come into the picture in a law enforcement capacity.
Speaking Monday, Lightfoot called for an "immediate" moratorium on electronic monitoring for murder, attempted murder, carjacking, rape and other violent crimes.
"We are in a crisis and state law explicitly requires judges to consider community safety in making individualized bond decisions," she said. "The cumulative effect of having almost 2,300 violent, dangerous offenders on the streets has reached a tipping point... Many of our neighborhoods are up for grabs."
The mayor said a formal request will be sent to Chief Judge Timothy Evans with the Circuit Court of Cook County, who oversees the program.
"Too many people" are being murdered by offenders on electronic monitoring, with "well over" 15 people arrested for shooting or murder while on electronic monitoring in 2021, Lightfoot stated.
To reduce community violence and "not end up in the same cycle," Lightfoot said it's essential to address the root causes of violence - such as poverty and neglect. The city has made efforts to do so, she said, including by hosting a day-long poverty summit in Feb. 20.
Economic development initiatives to build a "truly equitable" and "inclusive" city are crucial to quelling violence, the mayor explained, as is support from residents who hope to help make their neighborhood a safer place.
"We need partners and partnerships that are broad and deep," the mayor said. "I'm also talking about investing your time and talent to the most urgent and noble cause of our lives… There's immediate work to be done, and we need every one of you."