Lightfoot, Johnson Unveil Plan To Track Gun Offenders | WBEZ
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Chicago Mayor, Top Cop Unveil New Plan To Track Gun Offenders Through Criminal Justice System

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson on Thursday launched what they are calling GunStat, an effort by local and federal law enforcement agencies to identify and address criminal justice “weaknesses” by tracking alleged gun offenders from their arrest through bond hearings, prosecution, sentencing and release.

The effort began with a two-hour meeting Thursday morning at Chicago police headquarters — the first of what are envisioned as monthly gatherings between representatives of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and more than a dozen other officials and entities. Foxx and Dart did not attend the first meeting, but the top federal prosecutor in Chicago, U.S. Attorney John Lausch, led an entourage into the room.

“We're breaking out of silos,” Lightfoot said at a news conference before the meeting. “All the various parts of the system haven’t seamlessly been talking together.”

A police spokesman said GunStat will consist mainly of the monthly meetings, but Johnson said it will “create a uniform dataset, putting all of our cards on the table in an effort to curb violence in Chicago.”

“Our aim is to take a wide view of how gun cases work their way through the system, identifying gaps and closing loopholes,” Johnson said. “Gun offenders need to be held accountable.”

The spokesman said Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, pushed for GunStat to be modeled on a similar effort in Baltimore led by former Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein when he was chief federal prosecutor there.

The initiative comes as officials fight over 2017 changes to bail in Cook County that have enabled more defendants to go home while they await trial, instead of staying in jail.

City officials have claimed that those reforms are partly responsible for Chicago’s violence. But some county officials say Lightfoot and Johnson are trying to pass off blame. They say the real problem is the city’s low rate of solving murders.

In 2018, the police department solved 21.8% of murders committed during the year, according to police figures obtained by WBEZ using the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

GunStat’s launch also follows this month’s controversial rollout of the Police Department’s Gun Offender Dashboard, which names individuals arrested on gun charges and provides their bail status.

Community activists and Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli have slammed the portal as an intrusion into defendants’ privacy and a distraction from what causes gun violence.

Chip Mitchell reports out of WBEZ’s West Side studio about policing. Follow him at @ChipMitchell1. WBEZ criminal justice reporter Shannon Heffernan contributed. Follow her at shannon_h.

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