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Rahm Emanuel's Problems Were His Own Creation

September 5, 2018, at Townhall

By John R. Lott, Jr.


Chicago’s rampant crime rate left Rahm Emanuel with little choice but to withdraw from the city’s mayoral race. One recent poll showed that only 31% would vote for his re-election, and 62% wanted to vote for someone else.

Last year, Chicago had 650 homicides. The number was down from 2016, but still almost 90 more than New York and Los Angeles combined. Unfortunately, the true number is even worse, because Chicago has been intentionally misclassifying murders as non-murders.  

It is easy for Chicago politicians to point fingers and deny responsibility. Insufficient gun control, even in Illinois where it costs $450 to get a concealed handgun permit, is always a popular bogeyman. But there is a very simple reason for Chicago’s crime problems. With only 17.5% of the city’s murders resulting in an arrest, criminals have become emboldened. Nationally, arrest rates for murders are over three times higher.

The quality of Chicago’s policing has been deteriorating for decades. Back in 1991, shortly after Richard M. Daley became mayor, 67% of murderers were being arrested.  By the time Daley left office twenty years later in 2011, the arrest rate had fallen to 30%.  This troubling drop only continued after Rahm Emanuel became mayor.  

Unlike Chicago’s arrest rate, the national rate has been fairly constant in recent years.  

Chicago’s low arrest rate is the result of poor political decisions by both the city and state. After becoming mayor, Emanuel took three measures that undermined the effectiveness of the Chicago Police Department:

1) Closed detective bureaus in Chicago's highest-crime districts and relocated many to distant locations.

2) Disbanded many gang task forces.

3) In cooperation with the ACLU, instituted new, voluminous forms that have to be filled out each time police question someone in a criminal investigation.  This mountain of paperwork gives police less time to patrol neighborhoods. 

The state of Illinois is adding its own paperwork. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is now trying to require consent decrees after the Trump administration abandoned the Obama administration’s proposed. A draft decree leaked in July contained a long form that Chicago police officers would have to complete anytime that they point a weapon at someone or even draw it. In some parts of the city late at night, it has been standard practice for police to draw their guns when they are investigating disturbances.

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