Chicago mayor’s race dominated by concerns about crime

CHICAGO (AP) — For years, Republicans have sought to win over voters by depicting Democratic-led cities as lawless facilities of violence that want tough-on-crime insurance policies. In Chicago, among the Democrats working for mayor are deploying the identical technique as they debate how one can make town safer.

One main candidate, who touts his endorsement from the Chicago police union, says “crime is uncontrolled” and town wants lots of extra officers patrolling its streets. One other hopeful says that if suspects flee a criminal offense scene, officers ought to have the ability to “hunt them down like a rabbit.”

Even incumbent Lori Lightfoot, the primary Black lady and first brazenly homosexual individual to function Chicago mayor, has used language proper out of the GOP playbook, accusing a high rival in her reelection bid of eager to defund the police.

The shift in rhetoric displays the diploma to which considerations about crime have dominated Tuesday’s mayoral election in Chicago and threatened Lightfoot’s reelection bid. Removed from being an outlier, the nation’s third-largest metropolis is simply the newest Democratic stronghold the place public security has change into a high election situation.

In San Francisco, progressive District Lawyer Chesa Boudin was ousted in a recall election final yr that was fueled by frustration over public security. In Los Angeles, two Democrats working for mayor debated how one can cope with rising crime charges and an out-of-control homelessness disaster. In New York Metropolis, voters elected Eric Adams as mayor, elevating a former metropolis police captain who pledged to repair the division and make investments extra in crime prevention. And in Philadelphia, candidates working for mayor this yr are debating how one can curb gun violence.

The elevated consideration on public security follows a spike in crime charges in lots of communities that coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic. Excessive-profile incidents of police misconduct drew extra scrutiny of policing, and there was disagreement even amongst Democrats about so-called progressive public security insurance policies similar to ending money bail or offering protected injection websites for drug customers.

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Jaime Domínguez, a political science professor at Northwestern College, mentioned it is the primary time in 20 years that he is seen public security be “entrance and heart” in a Chicago mayoral election.

The distinction, he mentioned, is that crime is now not largely remoted to some predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods. As extra crime is happening in different components of the extremely segregated metropolis, together with within the downtown and different areas frequented by vacationers, public security can be high of thoughts for white voters.

“Traditionally, it was primarily a pocketed matter. It was nonetheless pernicious and candidates spoke to it, nevertheless it didn’t actually have an effect on areas the place you see crime occurring now,” Dominguez mentioned. “That has been blown up. It’s simply, it’s in every single place.”

Chicago has a better per-capita murder price than New York or Los Angeles, nevertheless it’s decrease than different Midwestern cities, similar to St. Louis and Detroit. Nonetheless, the variety of homicides in Chicago hit a 25-year excessive in 2021 with 797, in accordance with the Chicago Police Division.

That quantity decreased final yr however continues to be greater than when Lightfoot took workplace in 2019. Different crimes, similar to carjackings and robberies, have elevated lately.

9 candidates are working in Tuesday’s formally nonpartisan mayoral election. With no candidate anticipated to recover from 50% of the vote, an April 4 runoff between the highest two vote-getters is probably going.

Randall Fearnow, a 67-year-old well being care legal professional who’s white and who lives close to Wrigley Discipline on town’s north aspect, skilled town’s crime downside firsthand when he and his spouse walked within the again door of their dwelling in the future final October and found burglars inside. The criminals ransacked the house and stole hundreds of {dollars}’ value of bijou and cash earlier than working out the entrance door, he mentioned. Police did not catch the perpetrators.

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“It occurred within the broad daylight,” Fearnow mentioned. “If you step out, it makes you’re feeling a bit uneasy. … You’re not immune anyplace from crime within the metropolis.”

Fearnow forged an early poll for Paul Vallas, who was endorsed by the Chicago police union. He additionally voted in opposition to Lightfoot 4 years in the past, saying he believed her rival within the 2019 runoff was “far more level-headed.” This yr, Fearnow mentioned the 2 most necessary elements in his vote had been crime and rising property taxes.

“The town will get costlier to stay in and fewer protected,” he mentioned. “So any person must do one thing.”

As she fights to land a spot within the April runoff, Lightfoot has taken on opponents she sees as a risk — amongst them Prepare dinner County Commissioner Brandon Johnson. In a current advert, Lightfoot accuses Johnson of eager to defund police, utilizing video of him talking on a neighborhood radio program in 2020. She mentioned Johnson, who avoids the phrase “defund” when talking on the marketing campaign path about policing, is not being candid with voters.

“He’s requested direct questions at quite a lot of boards, and that man’s acquired extra bobs and weaves than Muhammad Ali,” Lightfoot mentioned.

Johnson, a former instructor and union organizer endorsed by the Chicago Lecturers Union, says he desires to speculate extra in areas similar to psychological well being therapy. In a press release responding to Lightfoot, his marketing campaign mentioned that does not imply cuts to the police division. Johnson additionally notes that Chicago nonetheless has a violence downside though the police finances grows yearly.

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“Lori Lightfoot hasn’t made Chicago safer, however I’ll,” Johnson says in a brand new advert. “It’s time to get sensible, not simply robust.”

All of Lightfoot’s opponents wish to hearth the police superintendent she employed, saying that the previous Dallas police chief has been ineffective and that hiring an outsider damage morale. Lightfoot has defended the superintendent, David Brown, and says that whereas town confronted never-before-seen challenges such because the pandemic, their methods are working and a few crimes are falling.

Vallas, an adviser to the Fraternal Order of Police in the course of the union’s contract negotiations with Lightfoot’s administration, says that if he turns into mayor, he would promote a brand new management group from inside the division. Vallas says he would welcome again lots of of officers who’ve retired or gone elsewhere out of frustration with Lightfoot. He additionally desires to return to a group policing technique, with devoted officers assigned to patrol every of town’s almost 300 police beats.

“We’ve acquired to revive public security,” mentioned Vallas. “Every part proceeds from that.”

Rich businessman Willie Wilson, one other mayoral candidate, has doubled down on his remark that suspects in violent crimes ought to be hunted down like rabbits. Wilson says he misplaced a son to gun violence, and he believes law enforcement officials are being prevented from doing their jobs.

The opposite candidates are Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Chicago Metropolis Council members Sophia King and Roderick Sawyer, activist Ja’Mal Inexperienced and state Rep. Kambium “Kam” Buckner.


Related Press author Claire Savage contributed to this report.