Today, the Chicago Tribune re-published a story that indicates that law enforcement authorities in Chicago may be losing the fight against gun crimes. Everyone is aware of the ridiculous number of gun related crimes in the city of Chicago. It is the subject of national news stories and was the subject of a recent movie by Spike Lee which places the spotlight on the out of control gun violence in the City of Chicago. The gun violence in Chicago entered the discussion in last year’s Presidential campaign. Recently, President Trump has threatened to send in the National Guard to deal with the gun violence in Chicago. Law enforcement authorities and the politicians in Chicago have made fighting the out-of-control gun violence the focus of their collective efforts. However, the Chicago Tribune today re-published a story which should cause the citizens of Chicago to be seriously concerned about whether the authorities are fighting an effective fight against gun violence.
The Tribune reports that since 2012 the average bond set for a felony gun crime has doubled. In 2012, the average bond for a felony gun case was $25,000. In 2016 the average bond for a felony gun case was $50,000. The Tribune reports that this has done nothing to keep gang members off the streets. The number of defendants posting bond has more than doubled from four years ago. Therefore, in spite of the bonds for felony gun crimes doubling, four times as many defendants are getting out of jail on bond than they did four years ago. In 2012, the average number of days that a defendant charged with a felony gun crime spent in jail before posting bond was 42 days. In 2016 that number had dropped to 18 days. Fewer and fewer guns are being recovered by the Chicago Police. From 2012 until the end of last year, 9% fewer guns have been recovered.
Recently, Cook County authorities have been looking closely at reforming the Bond system in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Too many Defendants charged with minor non-violent crimes our spending too much time in Cook County Jail simply because they are unable to afford to post the bond. This is adding strain to the Cook County budget which is already in facing increasing economic pressure. Cook County authorities are trying to come up with a way to reserve precious jail resources for criminal defendants who are identified as posing a danger to the community.
So, at the end of the day. the citizens of Chicago are seeing a rise in the numbers of murders, shootings and gun related crimes while the numbers of arrests for gun related crimes are going down. This is not good news. We know for sure that the number of illegal guns on the street are not going down. So, what is happening?
Law enforcement authorities are blaming the public attention that has been placed upon the police as a result of several highly-publicized shootings of citizens by the Chicago Police. According to the police, the added scrutiny placed upon the Chicago Police Department has caused police officers to be afraid of making arrests for fear of making a mistake and having their names and faces all over the news. Others blame the spread of drug profits for the ability of gang members to easily post bond and get back out on the street. From personal experience, I can tell you that my clients are telling me that when they are getting arrested, the police are asking them to give them information on guns in return for letting them go or to go easy on them. Cook County prosecutors have been given their marching orders from their supervisors to push for jail time for any gun-related crime. In Cook County, it is virtually impossible to work out a negotiated agreement with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office that does not involve a prison sentence. From what I can see, at the very least, the desire to crack down on guns is there. But if these numbers are to be believed, then clearly something is wrong with the way that the strategy to fight the spread of illegal guns is being carried out. Perhaps, law enforcement officials and prosecutors should rethink how they are going about tackling this serious problem. Obviously, what they are doing is not working. Continuing with the same failed policies will not cause this problem to just go away. Until the authorities admit that they have failed, the gun problems in Chicago will just continue to get worse. The citizens of the city of Chicago should speak up and force their elected public officials to admit that they have failed and admit that they need to start over with fresh and innovative strategies because what they have done, and continue to do, has not worked.
James G. Dimeas is an award-winning criminal defense lawyer and published author. James Dimeas has been handling criminal cases throughout Cook County, DuPage County and Kane County for 25 years. If you are facing criminal charges and want to have a confidential consultation with Mr. Dimeas, you can call him at 847-807-7405 anytime to talk to him about your case.