Program results in increase in repeat gun charges
Innovative State’s Attorney’s Office Program Results in Dramatic Increase in Repeat Gun Charges
Last updated 12/4/2019 at 2:34pm
Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx announced data demonstrating that the Gun Crimes Strategies Unit (GCSU) – her office’s initiative of taking prosecutors out of the courtroom and putting them directly into police districts struggling with high rates of gun violence – is producing significant results. Prosecutors in GCSU districts work collaboratively with local and federal law enforcement to share intelligence and target the drivers of violent crime. Data compiled by the University of Chicago Crime Lab show a decrease in violence and a significant increase in enhanced gun charges in GCSU districts compared to districts without a prosecutor on the ground.
Between 2016 and 2018, gun violence declined faster in the five GCSU districts than in the city as a whole. In addition, since Cook County prosecutors have been embedded in those districts, they have led the City of Chicago in referring enhanced gun charges for Armed Habitual Criminal (AHC), a Class X felony, for prosecution.
Gun Crime Strategies Unit prosecutors are cross-designated as ASAs (Assistant State’s Attorneys) and SAUSAs (Special Assistant United States Attorneys) and have the ability to try cases in state and federal court.
“There is no simple solution to the problems we are facing, but the data demonstrate that this proactive approach to combating violent crime is moving us in the right direction,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. “This is progress, not victory. Working collaboratively with our partners, we are seeing that it is not only possible to address public safety and criminal justice reform at the same time. In fact, it is necessary, and I’m proud that we are prioritizing our resources on data-driven efforts like the Gun Crimes Strategies Unit.” GCSU districts include the Chicago Police Department’s 6th District (Gresham), 7th District (Englewood), 10th District (Ogden), 11th District (Harrison), and 15th District (Austin).
Key statistics in GCSU districts:
AHC arrests in the 11th District (Harrison), where a prosecutor from the Cook County’s State’s Attorney’s Office (CCSAO) is embedded on the ground, increased from 9 in 2015 to 16 in 2016, 26 in 2017, and 48 in 2018 (a 433 percent increase since 2015).
AHC arrests in the 7th District (Englewood) increased from 10 in 2015 to 37 in 2018 (a 27 percent increase).
Fatal and non-fatal shootings in the five GCSU districts decreased by 35 percent from 2016 to 2018, compared to 31 percent for districts without an embedded prosecutor.
As charging and conviction rates in AHC cases have remained consistent over time, this significant increase in AHC arrests has led to more individuals being charged and convicted in tandem.
“These data are an encouraging sign that closer collaboration between police and prosecutors can strengthen the justice system’s response to gun violence and do so in a targeted way that helps restore trust in those communities most affected by shootings,” said University of Chicago Crime Lab Executive Director Roseanna Ander.
“This coordinated and collective partnership with the State’s Attorney’s Office is another initiative as part of our ‘all-hands-on-deck’ strategy to create real, widespread and lasting public safety in Chicago’s communities,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “Working hand-in-hand with the Gun Crimes Strategies Unit, we will continue to keep violent offenders off our streets so that every resident in Chicago has the safe and nurturing environment they deserve.”
“Chicago Police officers that operate with embedded prosecutors have welcomed the additional insight, as gun crime in these targeted districts has continued to decline,” said Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson. “By working together, CPD and prosecuting attorneys have been able to keep criminals from returning to the same neighborhoods they once tormented, and we have begun to create a culture of accountability for those who repeatedly engage in gun violence.”
The University of Chicago Crime Lab is working with the CCSAO to evaluate the impact of the GCSU on the criminal justice outcomes of drivers of violence, with support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance.
The State’s Attorney’s Office recently won a grant to increase investment in the GCSU and more proactively investigate Chicago’s most violent corners. The CCSAO secured another grant to investigate violent crime from a financial perspective and target higher level individuals who are profiting from and potentially driving violence.