Chicago carjacking task force to be staffed around the clock amid rising violent crime

Chicago is expanding its carjacking task force as residents remain concerned about high violent crime, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Superintendent David Brown announced.

Brown said the task force is currently staffed for two out of three shifts, but will soon be staffed around the clock with officers focused on apprehending carjackers.

“Over the last year and a half in particular, there is a very real and pervasive fear of carjacking in our city, our region and our state,” Lightfoot said at a press conference.

Over the past two years, Chicago has seen significant spikes in violent crime. The city recorded more than 800 homicides in 2021, its worst year in at least two decades.

Carjackings in Chicago rose about 135% from 603 in 2019 to 1,415 in 2020, according to a Tribune review of police reports. The 2020 tally was the highest number recorded here since 2001, when Chicago recorded just a little higher with 1,422, according to city statistics.

Chicago also saw an increase in 2021.

In response, Lightfoot has repeatedly acknowledged that many Chicagoans feel unsafe, a dynamic that threatens public safety, residents’ mental health, and the city’s economy, and she has repeatedly stated that his administration was working on the problem.

Brown said carjackings are down 23% so far this year compared to the same time last year. The department found that half of arrests made in connection with stolen vehicles are of teenagers and children under the age of 18, some as young as 11, and many are repeat offenders.

An 11-year-old boy was arrested on January 26 by the Vehicle Hijacking Task Force after he was identified as the person who took a car in the 11000 block of South Harding Avenue in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood on Nov. 19, Brown said.

Officers saw him get out of a stolen Chevrolet Malibu and the boy was charged with aggravated hijacking with a weapon and possession of a stolen vehicle.

Brown then listed a long history of arrests, particularly for one belonging to an elementary-aged child. Brown noted arrests from 2020, most related to stolen cars.

“This idea of ​​resources for our youth is real,” Brown said. “It’s critical to our success.”

Brown didn’t specify what those resources might be, but Lightfoot added that she doesn’t believe children should be locked in with the key thrown away.

“That can’t be the answer,” she said. “It must be something more. But what is also true is that there must be accountability.

Lightfoot said she had conversations with the state’s attorney and was reaching out to the public defender in addition to a task force established last fall to find ways to provide “meaningful interventions” to these children, who may have difficult personal circumstances.

“It can’t be arrest and release, arrest and release,” she said. “Because we’re not solving any long-term problem by just doing that.”

Lightfoot said the city saw the increase in cases in 2020 and believed there was a correlation between remote learning and carjackings. She said some parents left for work thinking their child was attending their virtual classes when in reality they were on the streets.

“I asked if there was a new market for stolen cars? And unfortunately that answer was no, that for many of these children, some of whom had never been involved in the criminal justice system, it was pure annoyance,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot’s comments drew almost immediate criticism from the Chicago Teachers Union, which called his remarks “intellectually unsound and politically venal.”

“Every child in our Chicago public schools deserves an apology from the mayor today, who claimed without any evidence that there was a correlation between remote learning in 2020 and an increase in carjackings, which have multiplied across the country,” the union said in a statement.

“Suggesting that our students are somehow disproportionately responsible for these crimes is precisely the kind of scapegoating and vilification tactics that black and brown students and adults have faced in all crime discourse for generations” , said the union, which has clashed on several occasions. with Lightfoot to find out if there are adequate safeguards against COVID-19 in schools.

Monday’s announcement isn’t the first time city officials have pledged to work on the issue, either publicly or privately.

Aldus. Greg Mitchell texted Lightfoot in July 2020 about “several auto thefts/robberies” in Calumet Heights on the South Side. He told her of children who stole high-end luxury vehicles at gunpoint and used the stolen cars to carry out other carjackings.

“On it! I’ll call you back myself as soon as I get a break from meetings but it worried me, I was constantly asked about it and CPD told me they have a plan to working with the suburbs,” Lightfoot said in response. “I’ll make sure it gets renewed attention.”

In January 2021, South Side aldermen teamed up with private security to monitor gas stations — a program they called “Operation Safe Pump.”

But despite their efforts, crime remains high.

On Monday, Brown said the city wants to reduce carjackings to pre-pandemic levels.

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