Homicides are trending down in Chicago this year, but the city may still end up with an overall increase in violent crime when the end-of-year stats are tallied thanks to a huge increase in the number of reported armed robberies. According to the latest data from the Chicago Police Department, robberies are up 24% compared to this time in 2022, while motor vehicle thefts have nearly doubled. Through the end of September more than 21,000 vehicles have been reported stolen inside the city limits, and as the Chicago Tribune reports, many of them are being used by violent offenders as getaway vehicles during their robbery sprees.
While residents are understandably frustrated and alarmed at the wave of armed robberies taking place throughout the city, officials don’t have many good answers. Mayor Brandon Johnson says he and the new police superintendent are “fully committed to deploying strategies that will bring justice to victims of violent crimes and hold offenders accountable,” but the rhetoric hasn’t yet caught up to the reality that Chicagoans are facing.
Federal agencies have provided an assist with air support and real-time tracking of phones when possible, and state police have proved helpful in chasing suspects, since Chicago Police Department policies severely restrict when its officers can pursue, according to sources.
That effort has led to the recent busts of several armed robbery crews believed to be responsible for dozens of holdups around the city. One of the suspects arrested in the South Loop after a robbery spree over Labor Day weekend had recently been acquitted in a murder case and was free on bond on new charges of fentanyl trafficking, records show.
But even when they do make arrests, police are having trouble getting enough evidence to file charges. The crimes leave little in the way of physical evidence. Victims mostly are unable to make positive identifications. The cars used in many of the crimes are stolen or have bogus plates.
“There’s trouble identifying some of the offenders, we’re using technology to try to catch a lot of these offenders as well,” Chicago police Sgt. Michael Edens, of the Northwest Side’s Shakespeare District, told the approximately 100 attendees at Monday’s meeting.
Edens said many of the suspects involved in the robberies are juveniles. Those who are arrested are often sent back to parents or guardians, while some of those charged as adults are being placed on electronic monitoring, he said.
Ald. Jessie Fuentes, 26th, told the crowd at the meeting the juvenile justice system is not equipped to steer at-risk youth away from criminal behavior. She highlighted the need to better understand how young people are accessing guns and getting involved in crime.
The number of robbery victims in her Near Northwest Side ward, which covers portions of Humboldt Park and Bucktown, has risen 361% compared with 2022, according to police data. Fuentes hopes to fight the rise with increased visibility in high-crime areas from violence prevention groups, block clubs and police, she told the Tribune. But the problem must be addressed long term with a focus on rectifying years of disinvestment in certain neighborhoods, she said.
“We have to ask ourselves, when someone is robbing someone, what are they seeking to achieve?” Fuentes said.
What are they seeking to achieve? I’d say a clean getaway with someone else’s stuff, and far too often they’re achieving their goal. Arrests are few and far between, especially with the Chicago Police Department instructing officers to allow suspected robbers to flee the area without pursuing them. As CWB Chicago reported about one such incident in August:
Once again, Chicago police officers radioed that they had located the robbers driving around the area. And, once again, Chicago police supervisors ordered the cops to terminate efforts to pull the robbers over.
So, we’ll probably be writing another story like this one tomorrow.
As was the case in the over 100 armed robberies we’ve told you about recently, last night’s spree involved armed men who jumped out of a stolen Kia to rob people at gunpoint on the street. And, once again, the robberies were centered in West Town, up to Logan Square.
CPD officers told dispatchers they spotted the robbers’ car in the 2000 block of West Division in Wicker Park around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.
But the police department’s helicopter was not in service last night. Supervisors in CPD’s Shakespeare (14th) and the neighboring Near West (12th) Districts ordered their units to refrain from engaging with the vehicle. And the crew got away.
Fuentes can talk all she wants about improving blighted communities, restoring jobs, or even a sense of purpose for young residents, but the truth is that until offenders understand that there are going to be consequences for their crimes, we’re likely to see these crews operating with impunity. Even when an arrest is made, the suspect is all too often quickly returned to the streets, as the Tribune story highlighted with one recent case.
A police report stated the team of officers investigating a “city-wide pattern” of robberies had a beige Mercury Mountaineer under surveillance and attempted to stop the vehicle after seeing one of the suspects, 18-year-old Jacquez Adams, get into the rear passenger seat near Congress Parkway and California Avenue.
After the driver of the car rammed into a police vehicle, all of the occupants, including Adams, bailed out and tried to run, according to the report.
Police found an arsenal of weapons inside the Mountaineer, including a loaded rifle with a 7-inch barrel leaned up against the seat where Adams had been sitting, Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Danielle Levin told a judge in bond court the next day, according to a transcript of the hearing.
All of the occupants denied knowing the guns were in the car, according to the police report, which lists 27 Chicago police officers and detectives and an Illinois State Police trooper as participating in the arrest.
Adams, of the 3100 of West Fillmore Street, was charged with a felony count of unlawful use of a weapon in a vehicle, as well as a misdemeanor count of reckless conduct — but he was not charged with any of the robberies.
At the time of his arrest, Adams, who was twice convicted of carjacking as a juvenile, was just a few weeks into a two-year probation sentence for possession of a stolen motor vehicle, his first case as an adult, court records show.
A judge ordered Adams held without bond after his most recent arrest, but odds are that his status will change in a few weeks or months and he’ll soon be back out, perhaps wearing an ineffective ankle monitor to supposedly keep track of his movements.
While Illinois Democrats continue to get tough on lawful gun owners, they’re taking a kid-glove approach to dealing with violent offenders. It’s no wonder that hundreds of thousands of residents have decided to leave the Chicagoland area over the past five years. I just hope that those who remain decide to subject themselves to the needlessly burdensome process of obtaining a concealed carry license. Chicago’s doing a terrible job of combatting violent crime, but thankfully residents still have the right to protect themselves from the repeat offenders the city keeps cutting loose.