ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: THE BOYKIN PLAN TO MAKE COOK COUNTY SAFE
For many Cook County residents, the threat of gun violence, carjacking or retail theft is all too vivid. They’ve seen the lives of family members and neighbors cut short by a bullet or their stores ransacked by smash and grab mobs. For these residents, hopes for a better tomorrow are impaired because the reign of terror and anarchy may never appear to end.
To blame criminals, gangs, the police or any one group is insufficient. However, it is clear that the systemic failure we witness in these reckless and violent acts is in significant part due to failed governance.
The Constitution, in its magnificent Preamble, boldly asserts that WE THE PEOPLE do ordain and establish the United States Constitution to ensure domestic tranquility and provide for the common defense. Cook County government is failing to meet the domestic tranquility and common defense tests of the Preamble.
More than 1,000 residents of Cook County were killed by gun fire in 2021 alone, thereby shattering domestic tranquility and upending our common defense. Bullets are indiscriminate. Too many families have been left traumatized by the loss of a love done caught in the crossfire between armed assailants.
The people have a right to move about freely, without fear of losing their car to criminal enterprises and joyriders. Regrettably, carjackings have skyrocketed in the last several years in Chicago and Cook County. In the 12-month period ending in March 2022, Cook County experienced 2,060 carjackings. From 2020 to 2021, the number of carjackings rose 38 percent in Cook County.
Too little has been done to pursue justice for carjacking victims. A small percentage of carjacking cases result in an arrest and prosecution. In 2020, only 11% of carjackings resulted in an arrest in Chicago. Of those arrested, prosecutors only brought vehicle hijacking charges in fewer than 50% of cases. So, in effect, most carjackers get away with their crimes. Cook County must step up a coordinated and collaborative response.
Cook County has failed retailers, the backbone of community economies, by unilaterally deciding not to prosecute felony thefts if the value of goods stolen is worth less than $1,000. Illinois law allows felony charges to be brought for thefts valued between$300 and $1,000. A recent study showed that the number of felony prosecutions in Cook County dropped from 3,000 to 70 per month as a result of the change. The change in policy sends the wrong message to criminals.
WHAT WE MUST DO
We must protect the public by using all effective crime reducing strategies possible. We must push for legislation at the Federal and State levels that will require potential firearm owners to pass rigorous background checks, go after straw purchases, and mandate gun safety training and eliminate dangerous accessories, such as bump stocks. We must strengthen the ability of our law enforcement agencies to responsibly monitor and track perpetrators of crime. And we must prosecute those who break the laws, including for retail theft.
Law enforcement cannot do it alone. Our governments at all levels must work with the appropriate parties to establish universal protocols for intercepting threats. We must invest in new technologies that promote gun and vehicle safety in order to ensure domestic tranquility.
While it is clear that the provenance of this problem stems from many tangled roots, it is imperative that good governance provides the best recourse of its resolution. For too many young people, the perception of opportunity to advance in life exists on the streets and not in schools. They grow up in broken homes and neighborhoods, where the horizons are bleak. We know that many children in these environments will grow up to become successful and productive members of society. Other children will become traumatized and hardened in spirit. They will act out violently. And they will be judged and punished by our justice system.
Regrettably, governments throughout our beloved country have turned a blind eye to the flood of guns in our communities. As of2017, there were more than 393 million firearms in circulation in this country. We have 5% of the world’s population and up to 40%of owned guns, so it should come as no surprise that the United States had the second highest number of gun deaths in the world in 2019. We know that gun deaths are extremely rare in other great nations, such as the United Kingdom and Japan, where strict regulations exist, including limits on the types of guns that can be purchased, gun-amnesty programs and comprehensive training. We must adopt best practices for our state, county and municipalities.
As President of the Cook County Board, I will put my heart and soul into a campaign to end gun violence, carjackings and retail theft through the implementation of “The Boykin Plan” elaborated upon below. I will work hard to implement common sense prevention and deterrence measures and strictly enforce our laws. We seek to clear away the gun smoke so that a brilliant sky, overflowing with the sun’s warmth, will beckon all of us to follow our dreams and seek a better horizon ahead. This is no less than our children, families and communities deserve.
THE BOYKIN PLAN: GOALS & STRATEGIES
My goal is to make Cook County safe for all communities by changing the norms and motivations that lead people to commit acts of gun violence, hijack cars, and steal from retailers. We can meet the challenge by pursuing four strategies: prevention, deterrence, technological and interdiction.
- Prevention strategies address root causes of violent behavior and provide positive life alternatives.
- Deterrence strategies make clear that consequences for crime will be swift, certain, and proportional.
- Technological strategies invest in new technologies that promote safety, and
- Interdiction strategies remove as many dangerous firearms from circulation as possible.
STRATEGY 1: ADDRESS THE ROOT CAUSES OF VIOLENCE
To help prevent violence, at-risk children and families need support from compassionate individuals and organizations in their communities. They need to see that we care about them. As President, I will ensure that Cook County supports compassionate interventions and help turn at-risk individuals into productive members of society. I will fight for funding and investments in proven violence prevention strategies that provide the greatest benefit for our children.
1) ENABLE & REINFORCE NURTURING HOMES
Many of our children are subject to increased risk of violence due to abuse and/or neglect, sustained academic problems, and poor
By identifying at-risk children and families, communities can develop intervention plans to reduce the likelihood for violence during adolescence and young adulthood.
As President, I will partner with not-for-profit and faith-based organizations to deliver programs that nurture and enhance parenting skills for at-risk families, especially for single parent families. The programs will concentrate on improving parental monitoring and management of children’s behavior, when and how to use rewards and punishments, creating meaningful dialogue in a parent-child relationship, and strengthening the interpersonal and problem-solving skills of youth.
2) INVEST IN MENTORING
One of the best ways to help an at-risk child grow is through mentoring. A volunteer from the community fosters a relationship that contributes to a young person’s skill development and academic success. The mentor/mentee relationship can be established at any time from early childhood through adolescence without regard to known risk factors. Also, the encounters can take place in an individual or group setting across a variety of locations, including schools, churches and community centers, or through specialized providers of social services such as substance abuse treatment and counseling.
- Successful mentoring programs employ best practices in six areas.
- Develop clear aims and outcomes defining success
- Assess the ability of mentors and mentees to determine if they can commit time to the program and have the required desire to succeed.
- Provide training to mentors on knowledge, skills and attitude needed for success, Match mentors to mentees based on compatibility.
- Monitoring mentoring achievements and milestones and providing access to additional resources, as needed.
- Affirm the achievements of the mentor and mentee.
I will work with federal, state and county leadership to identify grants and other sources to fund structured mentorship programs in Cook County.
3) CREATE COMMUNITY VIOLENCE PREVENTION CORPS
For 90+ years, governments at all levels in the United States have invested in job training and development programs. Each approach shares similar goals—to increase employment opportunities for underserved individuals by improving their knowledge, skills and ability and integrating them into productive society. The major difference between programs is the mix of public and private options used for realizing the goals.
The time has come for Cook County and non-profit organizations to redeploy job training and employment resources to underserved communities affronted by violence. I call for the creation of a Cook County Community Violence Prevention Corps. Inspired by the federal Works Progress Administration (1935) and the Comprehensive Employment and Training Acts (1973), the Prevention Corp will train and employ, unemployed breadwinners and youth from at-risk families to serve as community relations specialist The individuals will be trained in techniques of conflict resolution, mediation, de-escalation, and related skills. They will be employed by participating public and private agencies.
STRATEGY 2 – IMPLEMENT EFFECTIVE DETERRENCE MEASURES
We have a public safety crisis in Cook County and law enforcement is our frontline defense. Every day, the men and women of law enforcement put their lives at risk to serve and protect the people of Cook County. I support them wholeheartedly and will fight to make all resources available to help them combat crime.
I support focused deterrence strategies by law enforcement and the courts to combat gun violence, carjackings and retail theft. Deterrence is based on the theory that an offender will think twice about committing a violent crime if the costs are greater than the benefits. The three elements of deterrence are certainty, swiftness and severity.
To wit, I favor the following programs and initiatives:
1) Full funding for witness protection programs
Regrettably, many witnesses feel unprotected by the justice system in Cook County. Countless number of cases are dismissed or stricken off a call by a judge because witnesses fail to show up in court. The legal system needs to acknowledge the bravery of witnesses and provide a safe, secure environment for them to participate in the process of justice.
Without witnesses, detectives cannot solve cases and perpetrators will get away with their crimes. This is unacceptable. The Victim/Witness Assistance Unit in the Office of the State’s Attorney is one of the largest such programs in the country, but itis underfunded, underperforming and unable to meet the needs of witnesses for protection. As President, I will work with the State’s Attorney’s Office to create a truly protective victim/witness protection program.
2) Permit cross-jurisdictional policing by Sheriff’s Deputies in high-crime areas
According to the Cook County Sheriff’s mission statement:
“The Sheriff of Cook County is the Chief Law Enforcement Officer in the County. Under the provisions of the Illinois State Constitution, the Sheriff has three primary responsibilities: Providing services and security to county and court facilities, administering the Cook County Jail, and protecting and serving the citizens of Cook County with policing throughout the county (emphasis added).”
With violent crime raging across Chicago and suburban municipalities, why has the Sheriff’s Office failed to meet this mission?
There are more than 130 municipalities in Cook County, including Chicago. By tradition and custom, each municipality has responsibility for policing within their geographic boundaries. Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s Office is relegated to a minor supporting role in policing, mostly due to jurisdictional and bureaucratic turf battles.
As President, I will push for greater sharing of resources by law enforcement agencies to help support a holistic response to communities experiencing high rates of violent crime.
3) Restore public service announcements about curfews
“Do you know where your children are?” That message used to be repeated nightly on the major broadcast networks in support of curfew laws. The goal was to remind parents to check up on their children. The time has come to restore the public service announcement across various platforms, including broadcast and social media. As President, I will work with the city of Chicago, and the various suburban municipalities to devise and implement a public service curfew announcement plan for the various broadcast and social media organizations.
4) Enforce stiffer, more uniform penalties for illegal possession and carrying of firearms
Firearms include pistols, revolvers, shotguns, rifles and machineguns. In Illinois, the laws on unlawful possession of firearms and unlawful use of weapons have numerous loopholes. For example, “Unlawful possession of firearms, other than handguns, and firearm ammunition is a Class A misdemeanor. Unlawful possession of handguns is a Class 4 felony. The possession of each firearm or firearm ammunition in violation of this Section constitutes a single and separate violation.” (720 ILCS 5/24-3.1)
Why should unlawful possession of some firearms be a class A misdemeanor and other firearms a class 4 felony? The penalty for committing a class A misdemeanor is up to 364 days incarceration in a jail, and possible fines. The penalty for committing a class 4felony is 1 to 3 years in an Illinois penitentiary.
Also, under Illinois law, the charges, and therefore the sentences, for unlawful use of a firearm will vary based on the location of the crime. (See 720 ILCS 24/1 (c) ). For example, the offense of unlawfully carrying a firearm is considered to be a Class A misdemeanor if it occurs in a church, synagogue, mosque or other place of worship. The same offense is considered to be a class 4felony if it occurs in a courthouse, school or public housing project. As President, I will lobby the state legislature to pass consistent charging and sentencing guidelines for unlawful carrying and possession of firearms.
5) Restore felony prosecutions of retail thefts
I will work with the Office of the State’s Attorney to fully fund a retail theft prosecution unit, and also commensurately properly fund the Public Defender’s Office staff for these cases. This must be done to restore faith in the criminal justice system for all Cook County businesses and retail establishments.
Strategy 3 – Invest in New Technology that Promotes Safety
Technology exists to prevent unauthorized persons from firing a specific gun. Known as “smart guns,” these firearms can only be used by a verified owner. There are two ways to confirm the identity of verified owners.
- radio frequency identification (RFID) tokens, such as bracelets, watches, rings and other wearable devices. The verified owner would activate the gun based on proximity to the token.
- biometric recognition technology. The verified owner activates the gun through a fingerprint, palm print or grip.
In effect, the technologies put a lock on the gun, which can only be opened by the verified owner.
It is estimated that 380,000 guns are stolen from owners every year in the United States. Many of those guns end up in the hands of criminals. They would not be able to use a “smart gun” because they could not unlock them.
The states of Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey have adopted “smart gun” laws. Illinois should do the same.
Another promising technology is known as “microstamping.” Basically, a unique code is stamped on the cartridge case of a gun upon firing. Law enforcement officers can then trace the cartridge back to the original firearm quickly and efficiently based on the unique code. This can lead to quicker turnaround in solving crime and apprehending an offender. The state of California has adopted “microstamping” technology to fight crime.
As President, I will work with Illinois state legislators and County law enforcement officials to pass laws requiring installation of smart gun and microstamping features on new firearms.
Motor Vehicle Safety
Recently, law local enforcement agencies, including the Cook County Sheriff and Chicago Police Department have assembled an interjurisdictional task force to share data and information about carjackings, to better track the movement of stolen cars and to educate the public on how to stay vigilant and protect themselves from carjackers. I fully support those efforts and will ensure that Cook County law enforcement receives adequate funding to implement the task force’s strategies and recommendations.
Information technology, such as GPS, can be harnessed to help law enforcement identify and track stolen vehicles in real time. Using location data from GPS, law enforcement can track the location of a car at any time, find the carjackers and recover the vehicle no matter where the thief tries to hide it. According to the Cook County Sheriff, “Most vehicles sold after 2015 have the capability to be tracked and nearly two-thirds of the vehicles taken in carjackings in Cook County are 2015 models or newer.”
I support legislative efforts to make real time vehicle location data available to law enforcement. In the spring session of the Illinois General Assembly, legislation was considered to require car manufacturers to provide law enforcement with immediate, real time information about a vehicle’s location if it is reported stolen by the owner. I support this legislation, as well as legislation requiring vehicle manufacturers to establish a 24/7hotline for law enforcement to call to obtain tracking information for reported stolen vehicles.
STRATEGY 4 – INTERDICTION
Throughout the United States, and in Chicago, gun buyback programs have successfully removed deadly weapons from circulation. Under a gun buyback program, the government purchases privately-owned firearms for the purpose of reducing the number of delayed-blowback firearms on the street. Typically, the government presents a prepaid gift card to a private gunowner in exchange for a firearm. No questions are asked to encourage participation in the buyback.
To maximize the effectiveness of buybacks, multiple jurisdictions should participate in the program. As President, I will work with Chicago and all suburban municipalities to implement a gun buyback program for all of Cook County.
MY FIRST ACTION:
ESTABLISH A MODEL OF COLLABORATION
The key to success is to build effective, long-term collaboration with all the stakeholders in the criminal justice system. Besides the County Board President, the mayors of Chicago and suburban Cook County municipalities, the Cook County Sheriff and State’s Attorney, as well as police chiefs, community and faith-based leaders, and other dedicated officials are committed to keeping the public safe. As President, my first action would be to organize a cross-jurisdictional team of stakeholders to establish an implementation plan for the four strategies of prevention, deterrence, technology and interdiction. We will work together to ensure that resources are allocated effectively and efficiently, and remove any unnecessary duplication of service. The residents of Cook County deserve nothing less from their leaders.
I will fully exercise the executive and budget authority vested in the Office of the President to ensure that all Cook County agencies and departments support implementation of the strategies.
We have a public safety crisis in Cook County. It is the responsibility and obligation of the government to ensure that the lives of our children, families and communities are safe. The current government of Cook County has failed to keep us safe.
As President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, I promise to put my heart and soul into making Cook County safe for all residents.
 Daniels, Matt, The Kim Foxx Effect: How Prosecutions Have Changed in Cook County, ChicagoReporter, Oct 24 2019.
 Dunn, Lisa, How Many People in the U.S. Own Guns? Guns and America, September 18, 2020.Retrieved 4/5/22.
 See, A Comprehensive Technical Package for the Prevention of Youth Violence and Associated RiskBehaviors, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016, p. 25.
 Congressional Research Service, Vulnerable Youth: Federal Mentoring Programs and Issues, July 22,2019, pp. 3-4
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workforce_Investment_Act_of_1998, Retrieved April 7, 2022.
 Focused Deterrence: A Policing Strategy to Combat Gun Violence, Illinois Criminal JusticeInformation Authority, June 22, 2018.
 Hendrickson, Matthew, County-based witness protection program will help solve violent crimes,victims’ families say, Chicago Sun Times, July 28, 2020.
 See Mission Statement at https://www.cookcountyil.gov/agency/sheriff, retrieved April 7,2022.
 Shen, Michelle, Personalized smart guns, which allow only verified users to shoot, may becomeavailable in US, USA Today, January 11, 2022.
 EFSGV, Microstamping, https://efsgv.org/learn/policies/microstamping/. Retrieved April 7, 2002.
 Cook County Sheriff, Press Release, December 9, 2021
 Civic Federation, Cook County Modernization Report, October 25, 2010, p 145.