As new policing strategies and legislation are being considered to address gun violence in Chicago, decisions can’t be made solely through the lens of police response. Instead, they should be viewed through the broader scope of our justice system and the cost to individuals, families, communities and taxpayers.
The Chicago Police Department policing strategy has drawn attention to a fundamental weakness in Cook County’s justice system.
Chicago is applying an approach commonly referred to as a broken windows strategy, in which police officers focus on minor offenses to prevent more serious ones from occurring. Chicago plans to allow police to arrest people who fail to pay tickets for public drunkenness or gambling, in an attempt to change behavior and make neighborhoods safer.
This strategy worked in New York City without crippling the public safety system because Bronx and Kings Counties do not unnecessarily hold people when they are charged with nonviolent offenses. The arrest removes the person from the street but does not lead to prolonged detention at great financial and human cost.
Chicago is not New York. And Cook County is not Kings County.