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Chicago crime is a problem business leaders can help solve: Editorial – Crain’s Chicago Business

It’s an old and not-very-funny joke in the political world: A conservative is a liberal who got mugged.

That said, hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin’s political leanings seem to have been set well before he and his security detail had a close encounter with some would-be carjackers—an incident he described briefly during an unusually feisty Oct. 4 appearance before the Economic Club of Chicago. The millions the Citadel founder spent in a failed bid to get Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner re-elected—not to mention the additional tens of millions he spent in a successful bid to nix the progressive tax, the passion project of Rauner’s Democratic successor, fellow billionaire J.B. Pritzker—are evidence enough of Griffin’s conservative bona fides.

So, Griffin isn’t a conservative as a result of his recent brush with crime.

But the alarm over violence becoming a commonplace occurrence in the lives of Chicagoans of all backgrounds, income levels, and political persuasions is understandable and hitting closer to home for even the most powerful people in the city. Just as a for-instance: Late last month, an officer guarding Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s home, mere blocks from the Kenwood home of Barack and Michelle Obama, shot at a suspect during an attempted carjacking.

In fact, carjackings have reached epidemic proportions in and around Chicago. The Chicago Sun-Times reports 2021 is on pace to be the worst year in two decades for carjackings in Cook County, with 43.5% more incidents countywide this year than in the same period last year, when carjackings also were way up over the year before. That’s on top of the grim tally of gun-related crimes within Chicago city limits so far this year, with 3,669 people shot as of this writing, and 668 total homicides. The Chicago area has experienced more than 185 expressway shootings so far this year. The bullets are flying in River North, in Hyde Park, in Gresham, in Jefferson Park, in the Gold Coast, in Sauganash, in the Fulton River District, in Austin and in the Loop.

No neighborhood is entirely safe from this epidemic. So Griffin is right to express grave concern about the crime wave that’s rattled all corners of the city. And his viewpoint carries more weight than most because, unlike many Chicagoans worried about crime, Griffin has the means to live and work virtually anywhere in the world, and his potential decision to relocate his business because he’s tired of worrying about violence has implications for Chicago’s economy as well as its image. The city’s reputation for crime isn’t helpful in attracting investment, to put it mildly.

Griffin is right to speak out on an issue that’s grown to be as damaging to Illinois’ economic well-being as our woefully underfunded public employee pensions. His stance merits only two quibbles: First, that his remarks before the Economic Club give the impression he’s allowed his long-standing feud with Pritzker to color his judgment about who is ultimately responsible for the crime problem wrenching this city. Griffin took several whacks at the governor, though it’s the mayor, not the governor, who has the authority and the obligation to ensure the safety of Chicago’s streets. Pritzker can and should provide law enforcement support to Mayor Lori Lightfoot if she asks for it, but policing is a city function, and the mayor should be held accountable for the Chicago Police Department’s failure to serve and protect city residents.

Second, as Crain’s Elyssa Cherney reported in the wake of the Economic Club appearance, Griffin is one of the city’s most prominent and influential philanthropists, giving literally hundreds of millions of dollars to worthy causes, particularly in the realms of the arts, culture and education. Fair enough. But a slim slice of his overall giving has gone to crime-prevention programs over the years. That’s his choice, of course. But there are organizations—such as ones recently highlighted on this page—doing remarkable work in the area of violence prevention, aiming to support at-risk young men who need help turning their lives around. We’re certain such grassroots groups, including Chicago CRED, Readi Chicago and Communities Partnering 4 Peace, would welcome Griffin’s involvement with open arms.

Chicago is unlike any other big city in the nation. With world-class universities, a gorgeous lakefront, a fascinating history, a man-made mountain range that consists of some of the most architecturally significant structures on the planet, rich cultural traditions, relatively affordable housing, far-reaching transportation networks, key corporate headquarters and a hardworking populace, Chicago is worth saving. That can’t be done without leadership, and the business community has a particularly important role to play in that project. That means doing more than merely complaining about crime. That means standing up and doing something about it.

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