As Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx begins her campaign for reelection, her office is touting new numbers from the University of Chicago Crime Lab that show her initiative to embed gun-crime prosecutors in Chicago police districts is paying off.
According to the data released on Tuesday, the police districts that house prosecutors from Foxx’s gun crimes strategies unit have seen a significant increase in arrests of “armed habitual offenders,” an enhanced gun charge for people with previous felony convictions. The university is still analyzing the program’s impact on gun violence and other “criminal justice outcomes.”
Foxx acknowledged that “it’s early,” but she said the data “tell us that we are onto something.”
Started in 2017, the gun crimes strategies unit placed specially-trained prosecutors inside police districts.
“Having attorneys in the districts with the police officers and detectives who are working on these cases every day, who know those districts and those neighborhoods well, who know the drivers of violence and are in conversation with us even before cases are filed helps us build our intelligence, helps us understand the neighborhoods, helps us build a rapport with the people in the community,” Foxx said.
The gun crimes prosecutors are currently working in five police districts, the 6th and 7th districts on the South Side and the 10th, 11th and 15th districts on the West Side.
University of Chicago researchers found the five districts with embedded gun crimes prosecutors had a significant increase in the armed habitual criminal arrests over the last two years, an increase not seen in other districts.
The charge is classified as a Class X felony, the most serious offense category in Illinois, and carries longer prison sentences than other gun charges.
The 11th District on the West Side had 48 armed habitual criminal arrests in 2018, the most of any district and up from 16 such arrests in 2016.
“We've been able to … know who these drivers of violence are, be able to pull their records, be able to assess very early on that this isn’t someone who's just caught with a gun. This isn't someone who's just involved in one shooting. This is someone who needs our attention and the full weight of our justice system,” Foxx said.
Now, Foxx is looking to expand the unit out into police departments in Cook County’s south suburbs. She said she expects that expansion to happen within the next year.