Chicago Lawmakers Urge Emergency Declaration, National Guard Call-Up

A group of lawmakers called for the declaration of  a state of emergency and deployment of National Guard troops to the city of Chicago on Friday, but the mayor and City Council allies delayed the decision by pushing the issue to a committee.

Several Chicago aldermen asked for the declaration of a state of emergency. Opponents called the move “grandstanding,” ABC 7 News in Chicago reports.

The City Council members called for action to combat the crime wave after an extremely violent summer and widespread looting, notably an organized attack on the city’s upper-status “Magnificent Mile” shopping area just north of downtown.

The lawmakers wanted the city to call for Gov. J. B. Pritzker, a Democrat, to declare a state of emergency and deploy the National Guard to support local police for at least four months. The council voted 30-17 to defer the discussion to committee meetings and safety hearings.

The city of Chicago endured a 139 percent increase in murders and a significant increase in shootings in the month of July, the Chicago Sun Times reports. There were 106 murders in the city that month, bringing the total number of murders in 2020 to 430.

Of the 573 people shot in Chicago in July, 58 were under the age of eighteen.

The city recently formed a special unit to deal with the growing number of violent crimes.

“As we continue moving more officers into the districts and closer to our communities, we have also been focused on creating teams that can address violent crime head-on within our most vulnerable neighborhoods,” CPD Supt. David Brown said.

At the end of July, the Chicago Tribune reported 2,500 people had been shot in Chicago in 2020. The newspaper tracks the number of shootings in the city, updating the data weekly as more shootings occur.

Last month, Chicago’s WGN News reported on the spike in murders and shootings for the month of June. Asked for an explanation for the violence, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot answered with what WGN characterized as an “old refrain.”

“That’s a complicated question,” Lightfoot said to WGN. “We have way too many guns on the streets.”

Although some of the rise of crime in 2020 may be explained partially by the unusual circumstances of the coronavirus lockdowns, ABC7 Chicago shared statistics from the FBI showing all categories of violent crime have been trending up in Chicago much faster than in the rest of the nation.

Crime increased by approximately 5 percent in the United States as a whole in 2020, but in Chicago it increased by 24 percent. Also, property crimes were trending down nationally, but not so in Chicago.

As the city’s crime rate increases, criminals appear to be emboldened, says retired Albuquerque Police SWAT Sergeant Steve Rodriguez.

“The looters know the police can’t do anything,” said Steve Rodriguez.

Chicago TV channel NBC 5 spoke to city residents who reported seeing carjackings in the middle of the day in front of upscale hotels, all-night partying on the streets, and car-to-car shootings. Locals interviewed expressed fear and frustration with the situation.

Alderman Brian Hopkins, whose ward includes the Magnificent Mile, says residents have told him they don’t believe the city’s downtown is a safe place to live or shop anymore. Deborah Gershbein, president of the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents (SOAR) tells NBC Chicago the situation continues to deteriorate and people are thinking about leaving.

“The residents are a target, the visitors are targets, and unfortunately nobody wants to be here anymore,” said Gershbein.

Gershbein expressed concern for the city’s economic future as tourist dollars, already in short supply in the wake of the coronavirus lockdowns, slow to a trickle. Residents justifiably afraid to go shopping in the city are not likely to make up the difference, ensuring a continuing decrease in retail tax revenues.

The looting and rampant crime may change businesses’ decisions about whether to remain in Chicago, let alone move into the city. The mass looting of shops on the Magnificent Mile, has spurred store owners to consider relocating outside of Chicago, The Wall Street Journal reports. Store owners who may be able to use insurance to recover from this round of looting may not be able to do so after further incidents because they may lose their insurance or find it unaffordable as the price rises to match the greater risk. Smaller businesses, in particular, may not be able to absorb the cost of higher premiums or the out-of-pocket expenses for repair and replacement of stolen merchandise.

Business owners with storefronts in the areas targeted by looters are reconsidering their presence in the city in light of these concerns, the Journal reports.

Expressing concern the riots and looting plaguing the city will have crippling long-term consequences, Hopkins says the looting sprees ruin businesses and hurt everyone who lives or works in the area, CBSN Chicago reports. Hopkins says he is concerned about the economic impact of people already moving out and those who will do so if the lawlessness continues.

“A mass exodus could gut Chicago’s tax base, causing a citywide ripple effect,” Hopkins told WBBM. “We’re going to lose people. They’re going to move. We’re already seeing that start to happen.”

As increasing numbers of residents, visitors, shoppers, and businesses leave the city, Chicago has no way to survive in its current form or even pay its bills, Hopkins says. The ward Hopkins serves, which includes the Magnificent Mile, accounts for approximately 40 percent of the city’s property tax revenue, which pays for the city’s public schools, among other things.

With Chicago’s crime rates soaring and businesses and homeowners moving or considering getting out, protestors are demanding city leaders defund the police and shift the money to services such as child care, mental health, and health care, the Chicago Sun Times reports.  A group protesting against the police called for “free child care, increased pay for child care workers, as well as environmental reforms that disproportionally affect Black and Brown Chicagoans.” Protesters have also called for more spending on public schools, such as putting a nurse on staff at each school.

Some City Council members, by contrast, are pushing for a greater police presence, not less, in order to protect the public and save the city’s economy. Alderman Anthony Beale expressed concern about the resource drain as police are called to downtown areas to defend property and are no longer available to protect community residents.

“Our police are working 12-hour days, [and] their days off are being canceled,” Beale told ABC 7 news. “We need to give them some kind of relief.”

“The perception of Chicago is that we are spinning out of control,” Alderman Ray Lopez said.

This article was originally posted at Heartland Daily News (https://heartlanddailynews.com/) and is reprinted with permission.

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About Eileen Griffin

Eileen Griffin writes from Richland, Washington.

Photo: (Photo by Jim Vondruska/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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