BRONZEVILLE — Addressing criticism from residents frustrated with persistent violent crime, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx sought to reassure South Side residents she is prosecuting the majority of carjacking cases brought to her office.
Foxx spoke to residents during an hour-long virtual town hall Thursday hosted by Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd). The meeting was open to neighbors, but all questions had to be submitted to Dowell, and no residents were able to speak openly during the meeting.
As shootings, carjackings and other violent crimes surged in 2020 and 2021, Foxx has been chastised by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Police Supt. David Brown for refusing to charge suspects in those cases. Brown also has said Foxx and Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans supported court policies that allow violent offenders to be released from jail and placed on electronic monitoring.
Foxx told the Sun-Times this week her office indeed has raised standards for the cases they choose to prosecute, in part because of predecessors who felt pressure to produce guilty verdicts in a state that has the highest number of overturned wrongful convictions in the country. Still, Foxx has said her office still prosecutes the majority of cases that hit her desk.
Dowell said concerned residents have been contacting her office about whether carjacking suspects had faced criminal charges. Foxx said she wanted to clear up misconceptions about law enforcement procedures and her record as a prosecutor.
“Crime is scary, and these fears are real. But we must also make sure that as we’re talking about how to address it, we’re rooted in facts and an understanding of how the system works so that we can work together towards a solution,” Foxx said.
Dowell’s ward — which stretches from Roosevelt Road roughly to Garfield Boulevard —includes parts of the South Loop, Near South Side, Douglas, Bronzeville and Washington Park.
Carjackings, which surged during the pandemic, have started to drop in 2022, according to police data.
There have been at least 14 carjackings this year reported across the main community areas Dowell’s ward comprises, data show. There were 24 between January and mid-April in 2021.
Foxx said her office approves charges for carjackings in the 3rd Ward at a “very high” rate.
“So far this year, we’ve approved 100 percent of the adult vehicular hijacking cases, and 82 percent of the possession of stolen motor vehicle cases that have been presented to us have been charged,” Foxx said.
Foxx said 86 percent of carjackings in the 3rd Ward have resulted in a guilty verdict, while 78 percent of stolen motor vehicles and 90 percent of juvenile carjacking cases have also resulted in convictions.
Foxx admitted there has been less success with stolen car cases involving juveniles; her office only has been able to prosecute 40 percent of those. She said her office is working with the police carjacking task force and federal law enforcement on preventative strategies to reduce crime.
Juvenile-involved carjacking cases have been a major concern for residents who believe more should be done to stop them from becoming repeat offenders.
Though the office’s Juvenile Justice Bureau is “robust,” Foxx stressed the rules for juvenile court are different, only allowing juveniles to be held in pretrial detention for 30 days unless there are extenuating circumstances.
Wraparound services are provided for young people by the county’s Juvenile Probation Department and older teens receive “more intensive” probation services, depending on their history, Foxx said.
Juvenile cases involving a homicide or shooting typically move through the court system faster, but the pandemic created a backlog, Foxx said
State Sen. Mattie Hunter later joined the town hall and announced $13 million of the recently passed budget will go towards the state’s witness protection program, which has never been funded since it was created nearly a decade ago. The move to support the program had backing from both parties and Gov. JB Pritzker as a way to encourage more people to come forward to report crime.