Chicago's New Gun Program Means Tougher Sentences for Armed Offenders

The Chicago Police Department recently launched a new program to track gun offenses in Cook County. Similar GunStat initiatives have been implemented in other states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The program, a first for Chicago, will track the city’s gun offenders as they progress through the criminal justice system.

“From the time they’re arrested to the time they’re released into society, so we can see if we have gaps somewhere or if there are things we can do better to hold them accountable,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters on August 29.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said GunStat will help officials track and close loopholes in the criminal justice system, CBS Chicago reported. City officials will work with the US Department of Justice, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and the US State’s Attorney’s Office on the initiative.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said her office was committed to improving public safety and she was proud to create the Gun Crimes Strategies Unit, which allowed prosecutors and law enforcement to use data to identify and prosecute “violent offenders.”

“As the first prosecutor’s office in the country to publish detailed information on more than 350,000 felony offenders, the public now can see our efforts as we work to create more safe and just communities,” Foxx said in a statement. “We look forward to our continued partnership with the Chicago Police Department to improve our work while building trust through greater transparency.”

The group will meet on a quarterly basis to examine arrest statistics and case outcomes, as well as design strategies to prevent shootings, according to The Chicago Tribune. Meetings began on August 29. Lightfoot confirmed that she would be participating in the meetings.

“Chicago’s public leaders have a fundamental obligation to ensure that residents are safe and have uniform access to public safety services,” Lightfoot said in a statement on August 29. “Today, we’re bringing everyone to the table to build on our ‘all-hands-on-deck’ effort to create real, widespread and lasting public safety by addressing these issues head-on in a coordinated and collective effort.”

Officials said that the initiative will not focus h on new technologies, but instead on agencies bringing the information they know about gun offenders together in a comprehensive way.

“I’m certain there are going to be uncomfortable discussions, but that whole point is [that] everybody came because everybody has a vested interest in wanting to change the way things are done in Chicago,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.

The initiative’s announcement comes on the heels of Chicago PD’s Gun Offender Dashboard, which documents individuals arrested on the arrested suspicion of gun crimes, the charges, and whether they posted bond or not, The Chicago Tribune reported. The dashboard was criticized by Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli, who argued the data intruded upon people who, by law, are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Johnson acknowledged the Dashboard has met with some resistance. “We have to recognize, as a city, we have to treat gun offenders a little differently,” Johnson told The Chicago Tribune. “And I don’t know if you know of a case anywhere where a person has been able to shoot someone with a gun when they didn’t first possess it. That doesn’t happen.”

Similar initiatives have been implemented in other states and cities. The initiative was first started in Baltimore during the 2000s.

In March, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced he was expanding the state’s GunStat program, which tracks guns used to commit crimes in the Garden State. The program also tracks e gun manufacturers, according to CBS New York.

“In 2018, more than 80 percent -— four out of five guns — used in the commission of a crime in New Jersey came from out of state,” Murphy said at the time. “We cannot just name and shame those states whose lax laws allow the weapons to flow freely across state lines. We must also wake up the manufacturers.”

Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s GunStat program is similar to the one enacted in Chicago. In 2012, Philadelphia implemented the program to reduce gun violence by zeroing in on violent and repeat gun offenders. The program identifies areas besieged by gun violence and then tracks and monitors violent offenders before they can commit major crimes, according to the Tribune News Service.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.