Despite what Mayor Lori Lightfoot conceded has been a “brutal” summer of violence here, Police Supt. David Brown is making real progress in rebuilding the Chicago Police Department as a unit that the community can trust and that has begun to reduce soaring crime rates, the two said today.
In a joint in-person appearance before the City Club of Chicago, Lightfoot and Brown pointed to everything from positive results from a pilot test of a “holistic” approach to crime fighting to a sharp reduction in carjackings and an increase in the number of cleared homicide cases.
Paired with outreach efforts to minority youth in which police run athletic leagues, sponsor food drives and even take kids fishing, “We must understand that progress has been made, and it’s significant,” Lightfoot said.
Brown, after being introduced by Lightfoot, focused on what he said are favorable data points that have come about despite COVID-19, justice reform protests after the killing of George Floyd and escalating violent crime rates nationally.
Perhaps the most notable is a pilot test in 15 police beats citywide that were among the most violent in the city.
Those areas have been “flooded” with resources, not only police but social workers, counselors, violence-prevention experts and others, and the results are “encouraging,” Brown said, with the number of homicides since the pilot began in May down 22 percent compared to a 3 percent hike citywide, shootings down 40 percent and robberies down 17 percent.
The department continues to take as many illegal guns off the street as police in New York and Los Angles do “combined,” Brown said, and since a carjacking task force was formed earlier this year the number of incidents have dropped from 80 a week to 20 to 30 a week. More than half of those involved are juveniles, Brown said.
At the same time, the department continues to implement the reform consent decree between the city and the state and federal governments.
“No one is going back to stop-and-frisk or mass arrests. Thank God,” Brown said. “We’re making progress. But it’s slow and steady.”
Official departmental statistics paint a somewhat more mixed picture.
According to the department’s website, the number of homicides so far this year is up 4% compared to 2020, 56% from two years ago and 17% from 2017. Shootings are up 10% compared to 2020, 66% from two years ago and 23% from 2017. Other categories are about flat except for burglaries, which has shown a marked decrease, down 37% year over year.
Brown notably did not go after the criminal justice system, a frequent target of his for allegedly letting violent criminals out of jail on electronic monitoring until their trial. “I’m still a believer in holding violent criminals in jail,” said Brown, adding later in response to a question, “Picking fights with the chief judge and state’s attorney is not a smart thing.”
Brown said he is scheduled to meet with both State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Chief Cook County Judge Tim Evans to talk about cases involving gun seizures. “You can’t bully people” into accepting your opinion.
Both the mayor and Brown, who moved here 15 months after a stint at police chief in Dallas, made emotional appeals on behalf of police who have been shot in the line of duty this year.
Police “are cut from the same cloth as you and me and are human beings,” Lightfoot said. “The difference is, they run toward danger every day.”