In the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s runoff election for Chicago mayor, as in the midterms, public safety has emerged as one of the leading issues of the race. The candidates, Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas, have very different views on addressing violent crime — a schism that exemplifies a larger, national argument about the best ways to keep communities safe.
Vallas has run a classic “tough on crime” campaign, calling for extensive Police Department hiring and the return of neighborhood policing beats. Among his flagship plans is a promise to staff up the force by enticing retired officers to return to the ranks, a strategy experts have said might not work. Vallas is also backed by the city’s police union, to the extent that union President John Catanzara, a Trump supporter, predicted up to 1,000 officers would leave the force if Johnson wins.
Vallas has attacked his opponent for his perceived support of “defunding the police,” but Johnson also wants new hires, albeit on a smaller scale: His public safety plan involves adding 200 new detectives to the force. At the same time, Johnson has said he plans to fire officers with links to extremist hate groups, end Chicago’s contract with gunshot-detection technology company ShotSpotter, and reopen mental health centers closed by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel — part of a “holistic approach to public safety,” he told Block Club Chicago. Johnson’s wide-ranging platform is likely to resonate with violence prevention organizers, who told The Trace’s Rita Oceguera in January that candidates should focus on the root causes of poverty and disinvestment.
Johnson and Vallas have both gained powerful national backers: Obama-era Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Senator Dick Durbin both favor Vallas, while Senator Bernie Sanders and the Reverend Jesse Jackson are in Johnson’s corner. But the support the candidates should most urgently try to garner is local. As Oceguera reported this week, in the primary, most of Chicago’s Latino voters — who make up a large portion of the constituency — voted for U.S. Representative Jesús “Chuy” García, who didn’t make it to the runoff. Now, those votes are up for grabs.
Oceguera spoke with 10 Latino voters about their options in the runoff. There was no consensus on whether Johnson or Vallas offered the better public safety plan, but they all said that the toll of gun violence, which disproportionately affects Latino communities, is informing their decision-making. Both candidates face the tall task of convincing undecided voters that they are sincere in their promises to urgently address the gun violence crisis.
“The issue of gun violence is not just this idea of removing guns from communities or creating laws that ban assault weapons,” said Vince Castillas, a political consultant who lives in Pilsen. It’s also “understanding that the issue of crime and gun violence is the disinvestment in communities of color.”
From Our Team
‘I Don’t Want to Be a Statistic to You’: Chicago’s Latino Communities Are Focused on Gun Violence: Latino voters are split on who will be their next mayor. But they agree that he’ll need to have a clear plan for reducing violence.
‘No quiero ser una estadística para usted’: Las comunidades latinas de Chicago están enfocadas en la violencia armada: Los votantes latinos están divididos en cuanto a quién será su próximo alcalde. Pero coinciden en que necesitará tener un plan para reducir la violencia.
Gun Injuries Sent More Kids to the ER During the Pandemic: A new CDC report adds detail to the well-documented increase in gun violence since early 2020.
What to Know This Week
The victims of Monday’s mass shooting at a Nashville private school have been identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney, all 9 years old; Cynthia Peak, 61; Mike Hill, 61; and Katherine Koonce, 60. [BuzzFeed News]
Authorities currently believe the Nashville shooter was transgender, though there’s been no confirmation from someone close to the suspect. Nonetheless, conservatives and right-wing media figures have tried to shift the conversation from gun reform to anti-trans rhetoric — and as the rhetoric amplifies, trans people in Tennessee fear for their safety. [The 19th/NBC News]
The AR-15 wasn’t designed to be a civilian rifle, and when a consumer model debuted, gun industry executives didn’t see the appeal. How did it go from the back of industry trade shows to the bestselling rifle in America? [The Washington Post]
Do 90 percent of mass shootings take place in “gun-free zones,” like John Lott’s Crime Prevention Research Center asserts? Experts say the center’s claims misrepresent the facts. [Associated Press]
U.S. Representative Jared Moskowitz of Florida sharply criticized Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and other Republicans for focusing on controlling which books children are allowed to read over passing gun safety legislation. “You guys are worried about banning books — dead kids can’t read,” Moskowitz said Wednesday. [The Hill]
Law enforcement agencies across California train officers to quickly question family members after police kill a loved one — before telling them about the killing, or omitting it entirely. [Los Angeles Times]
New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin said the state would immediately assume control of the Paterson Police Department, following the law enforcement killing of anti-violence worker Najee Seabrooks. Seabrooks’ family says that’s not enough. [NJ Advance Media]
Third-party Amazon retailers have disguised stabilizing braces — the target of a recent Biden administration crackdown — as bicycle parts and tools, selling the accessories in violation of company policy. [VICE] Context: Amazon isn’t the only major online marketplace that’s struggled to control pistol brace sales.
A security contractor in Philadelphia acting as a deputy “landlord-tenant officer” shot a woman in the head while trying to enforce an eviction, sparking criticism of the city’s privatized eviction system. Deputy landlord-tenant officers are authorized to perform lockouts in exchange for the right to collect related eviction fees. [The Philadelphia Inquirer]
How has American gun violence changed parenting? [The Washington Post]
The president of Temple University in Philadelphia is resigning. His nearly two-year tenure was marked by concerns about violent crime near campus, which came to a head after a Temple Police officer was shot and killed in February. [WHYY]
Nasir Truitt, 16, was known as “the gentle giant” and “Big Baby.” Truitt died after he was shot in a skate park in LaGrange, Georgia, earlier this month. He was a high school sophomore, a football player and a fisherman, according to his obituary. He’d been gearing up for a job interview at a fast food restaurant, his father said, and he was excited about the opportunity. Family members described Truitt as kind and respectful, and he was “a good kid,” his cousin said. He liked to rap, play with animals, and ride his dirt bike. “He loved life,” his grandmother said, “and he lived it to the fullest.”
After the Nashville School Shooting, a Faithless Remedy for Gun Violence: “It is home, not school, where guns pose the greatest risk to children. But, unlike school shootings, which can still sometimes stop us in our tracks, few of these stories will ever lead a news cycle. They are too terribly ordinary.” [The New Yorker]
“Mia will soon be going to college. She has big dreams and applied to big schools. There’s that anxiety I know every child faces [when applying to college], but there’s a little bit of extra our daughter has: What are the guns laws there? Have they had a shooting before? She fears the day she sees someone walking around with a gun on their hip.”
Tiffany Tretta of Santa Clarita, California, on how her parenting changed after her daughter was shot and wounded at school, to The Washington Post