As part of its push to fight violent crime, the Trump administration has added three attorneys to the violent crime prosecution team in Chicago. The thought is that the additional prosecutors will be able to take on more cases, leading to more convictions and hopefully fewer overall crimes being committed.
There is some logic to this approach. In recent years, federal prosecutors in the area have been leaving for higher-paying private work, and the number of prosecutions has also decreased by one-third since 2006. Moreover, the demand for prosecution is high. Currently, Chicago has one person shot about every two hours and 25 minutes, and someone has to prosecute those cases.
However, Chicago’s violent crime task force already has over 150 prosecuting attorneys. Is the addition of three more really going to help that much? Are there other, better ways to curb our violent crime epidemic?
Below, we’re going to explore those questions, starting with a look at violent crime itself.
Understanding Violent Crime
Violent crime is defined by federal law as an offense that either attempts, threatens, or uses physical force against an individual or property. The law also applies to other felony offenses that present a significant risk of physical force while the offense is being committed.
Currently, the FBI is cracking down on violent crimes in the U. S. and intervening particularly in places like Chicago. The key types of violent crime they address are gang-related crimes, violence against children, active shooters, and bank robberies. The FBI also investigates mass killings, serial killings, assault crimes, child prostitution, kidnapping, carjacking, and Indian reservation crimes.
Why do so many violent crimes occur in Chicago? Unfortunately, there’s not just one reason – which means there’s probably not a single solution, either.
Multiple Problems That Need to be Fixed
Repeat offenders. The Chicago police superintendent notes that many offenders aren’t worried that they will have to face truly serious penalties for their crimes, so they aren’t deterred from repeating their offenses. Because of this, he is in favor of tougher penalties for repeat offenders.
Limited prevention. Maybe that would help with repeat offenders, but what about first timers? Isn’t it better to stop people from ever committing a violent crime in the first place? Few would disagree with that, but unfortunately the state budget is already strained to the maximum, and few extra dollars are available for crime prevention programs.
Loose regulations. Illinois gun shops aren’t regulated well, which adds to the illegal purchase of handguns. Though police are optimistic that shootings are declining in number – down over 900 since 2016 – the majority of Chicago’s homicides are committed with a gun.
Policing problems. The Chicago police department has been under criticism for officer misconduct, which hinders community relations. Low police morale has also contributed to a more distant approach on the street. Some feel that criminals are less afraid since officers are less likely to scrutinize.
To truly solve our violent crime epidemic, we need to be taking a holistic approach that addresses all of these issues.
New Plans for Curbing Violent Crime in Chicago
The Cook County State’s Attorney is setting up a new crime unit to break up gun trafficking, identify the worst offenders, and hold them accountable. Some groups are pushing for Congress to direct more funding into gun violence research.
Additionally, the police department is revising its use-of-force policy with plans to retrain all officers by the end of 2018. The force will be more equipped with body cameras and Tasers, which can decrease fatal confrontations. The mayor has also promised to form a citizen-run oversight board for the police department.
Other plans are in the works to address poverty-based issues in high crime areas.
All of these things are great, but they take time, and there will surely be growing pains along the way. Until then, what the addition of three new prosecutors tells us is that the plan is to work even harder to charge and convict people, likely pushing for the most severe punishments.
With this new focus on violent crime, you owe it to yourself and your family to consult with an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney if you are facing charges. A skilled lawyer can work to build the strongest possible defense against your charges and ensure that your rights are protected. Schedule your free case review today.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.