Over the July 4 weekend, in Chicago alone, 16 people were shot to death and another 66 were wounded. At a press briefing on July 11, the White House weighed in, stating that Obama would "continue to make the case" that lawmakers should adopt new gun control laws. Two days later, on Sunday, Gov. Pat Quinn also called for more gun control, in particular a state ban on assault weapons, as the solution.
But Chicago's problems lie with the city’s politicians. Nationally, police solve almost two out of every three murders – 63 percent of them. That figure is much lower in Chicago. In 2010, right before Rahm Emanuel became mayor, the rate for Chicago was 39 percent. But by Emanuel’s second year in office, it had plunged to an official rate of 26 percent. (In reality it is even lower, because Chicago has tried to hide how bad things are by increasingly misclassifying murders as non-murders.)
After becoming mayor, Emanuel did three unfortunate things to the Chicago police force:
1) He closed down detective bureaus in Chicago's highest crime districts and moved them elsewhere, sometimes quite far away.
Not surprisingly, when you don’t catch criminals, the result is more crime.
Admittedly, like many other cities, Chicago faced budget problems in 2011. But Emanuel decided to cut the police budget to fund his pet projects, like a new $20 million slush fund that Emanuel can use as wants. While Emanuel cut overall total city spending by $75 million, he asked the police slash their budget by $190 million. The cuts in police spending and elimination of their jobs financed infrastructure projects that aren't valued for what the projects build but “most importantly . .. [aimed at] creating 18,000 jobs over the next 10 years.”
Ironically, the layoffs backfired and failed to save anything close to what was promised. With crime soaring, Chicago wound up spending $103 million on overtime in 2013, over three times the $32 million that was budgeted.
Moving detective bureaus was a disaster. Detectives who had worked in high crime neighborhoods for years found themselves working other areas of the city. Knowledge about who were the likely culprits, informants and the neighborhoods was lost. As one detective told Chicago Magazine: “All the expertise you once had is useless when you’re working on the other side of town. You might as well put me in a new city.”
Moving detectives far away from crime hotspots also meant long travel times. Not only did detectives waste much more of their valuable time simply traveling to crime scenes, but, in a job where time matters, the detectives were slower to arrive. These delays made them less effective at solving crimes, as it’s harder to track down witnesses and evidence is more easily lost.
If budget cuts necessitated the closure of detective bureaus, logically the ones in low-crime areas ought to have been the ones selected. But that would likely have met with tougher political resistance, as more affluent and politically well-connected people live there. So much for the Democrats' claimed concern for poor minorities.
Ironically, in their push for more gun control, Democrats have learned nothing from Chicago’s failed experiment over banning guns in late 1982. The city’s murder rates stopped falling and started soaring after the ban, not only relative to other large cities but also in comparison to adjacent counties. The lesson was that gun control primarily disarmed law-abiding citizens.
President Obama, Governor Quinn, and Mayor Emanuel are obsessed with gun control. Not only are other methods proven ways of reducing crime, but the gun control policies they push would either have no effect or make crime worse.
Police matter when it comes to stopping crime. Rahm Emanuel needs to stop blaming others for his failed policies.
John R. Lott, Jr. is a columnist for FoxNews.com. He is an economist and was formerly chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission. Lott is also a leading expert on guns and op-eds on that issue are done in conjunction with the Crime Prevention Research Center. He is the author of eight books including "More Guns, Less Crime." His latest book is "Dumbing Down the Courts: How Politics Keeps the Smartest Judges Off the Bench" Bascom Hill Publishing Group (September 17, 2013). Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.