“Crime Impacted” Chicago Resident Told, Defend Yourself, Get a Gun

Gun Rights

A Chicago mother who called 911 after two masked men broke into her home reportedly had to wait more than four hours before police officers arrived. The woman, identified only as Michelle, was told during her initial call to wait outside her home and that a unit had been dispatched. After five additional calls to the emergency line and being understandably apprehensive about the delay, she asked to be put through to a supervisor. The man she spoke with “said sorry to say we have no units to send you… He also recommended I call my alderman and I said why, and he said encourage him to hire more police.” In addition to the suggestion that she lobby her elected representative for increased police funding, the dispatcher also steered her towards being her own first responder. He “asked me if I would consider defending myself …if I had a weapon or considered getting one.”

The Chicago Police Department explained that the delay “may have been related to the priority list for routine dispatch calls for 911 — because there was no immediate threat to life, Michelle was left waiting as officers addressed more pressing concerns.” The department has struggled to meet public safety needs amid significant staffing shortages.

Michelle’s situation is hardly an outlier, instead being part of a multi-year trend in the Windy City, even for high-priority emergencies. In 2021, one source notes that Chicago’s 911 system logged “406,829 incidents of high-priority emergency service calls for which there were no police available to respond. That was 52 percent of the 788,000 high-priority 911 service calls dispatched in 2021.” These included Priority 1 calls that represent “an imminent threat to life, bodily injury, or major property damage/loss,” like “person shot,” “person stabbed,” domestic battery, and “assault/battery in progress” calls.

In 2023, the Chicago Tribune wrote about the “staggering reality for Chicago residents: If you dial 911, it may be a while before police show up — even if the situation is so serious that department policy calls for an ‘immediate’ response.” An analysis of 2022 data by the newspaper showed that “tens of thousands of serious calls lingered in the 911 system for longer than it typically takes to get a pizza delivered… Citywide, the wait for an officer to be dispatched topped an hour for more than 21,000 calls, according to the city’s data. That was roughly 1 of every 24 high-priority calls.”

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One possible contributor to already strained police resources has recently been revealed. As if the usual real crime wasn’t bad enough, crooks in Chicago have dialed things up a notch with staged robberies. Local news source CWB Chicago describes a scheme in which criminals were allegedly being paid to pre-arrange armed robberies of immigrants at various small businesses (like liquor stores and fast food outlets). Federal prosecutors said “that each purported ‘victim’ paid ‘thousands of dollars’ for the privilege of being robbed at gunpoint. Ringleaders then instructed the ‘victims’ to be at a certain location at a specific time to be ‘robbed.’” The goal, it seems, was to enable the fake victims to obtain authorization to remain legally in the United States. (Under federal law, the U nonimmigrant status (“U visa”) is available to legitimate “victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity.”) As to the scale of this kind of organized crime, officials “believe hundreds of people, including some who traveled from out of town, posed as customers in dozens of businesses across Chicago and elsewhere,” for “robberies” that occurred several times a week over a two-year period.

CPD officers became suspicious after determining that the holdups were persistently low-yield crimes, with a few dollars from the ostensible victims and whatever cash the business may have had on the premises, and the scheme unraveled after one of the phony-robbery crews was arrested. Its members, all juveniles, were “more than happy to tell the police that the robberies were staged, that the victims were in on it, but they didn’t know why.” The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago has since filed charges against six alleged ringleaders.

Nonetheless, for the business owners, employees and customers who weren’t privy to the true nature of these performances, the danger posed by the armed robbers was likely all too convincing given the rampant crime in Chicago – and at one of these events, a liquor store employee was reportedly left critically injured after being “accidentally shot.”     

Illinois lawmakers, though, seem anxious to excuse criminals and what they do by shielding them from honest (albeit not complimentary) labels. Democrat legislators have sponsored a bill, HB 4409 (since passed by both the House and Senate), to change references in a state law from “offender” (a person charged with or convicted of a probation-eligible offense) to the less morally weighted “justice impacted individual.” (In much the same spirit of sugar-coating semantics, one of those sponsors is behind a separate bill to change “armed habitual criminal” to “persistent unlawful possession of a weapon.”)

Republican lawmakers spoke out against the “offender” amendment, including State Sen. Steve McClure (R-Springfield), who described it as a “rush to take away all accountability for people who commit crimes… This apologizing for the criminal, the person who chooses to commit crimes to the detriment of our victims, the people who don’t choose to be victims of crimes, is absolutely incredible. Crime is up 38% year-to-date since 2019. Crime is up everywhere.” On asking whether the bill would also amend the word “victims,” legislators were told no.

Aligning with “justice impacted individuals” and those in “persistent unlawful possession of a weapon” sends a fairly obvious message about political priorities. For Chicago’s law-abiding residents and actual “persons impacted by justice-impacted individuals,” the most realistic advice is, in fact, best get a weapon and be prepared to defend yourself.

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