Preckwinkle Backs off Criticism of City's Response to Violence Problem

By Quinn Ford on December 10, 2012 3:07pm 

 Cook County President Toni Preckwinke said she was frustrated at the county's growing prison population when she blasted Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration for the city's ongoing violence problem last week. Dec. 10, 2012
Cook County President Toni Preckwinke said she was frustrated at the county's growing prison population when she blasted Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration for the city's ongoing violence problem last week. Dec. 10, 2012
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DNAinfo/Quinn Ford

CHICAGO — Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle backed off comments she made last week blasting the mayor, police and Chicago Public Schools for the city's ongoing violence problem.

Standing outside the Cook County Jail at an unrelated press conference Monday, Preckwinkle said the comments she made at the Union League Club of Chicago Thursday were based on what she has seen in Cook County government.

"I spoke on Thursday out of frustration in part because I’d been given that morning statistics on a dramatic increase in admissions in the jail," Preckwinkle said.

She said about 80 percent of the jail population comes from the city even though Chicago makes up about half of the county's total population.

"For the first time in five years, we’re seeing more people are entering our county jails, and they’re staying longer," Preckwinkle said.

Those statistics prompted Preckwinkle to say the police department was trying to "arrest our way out of our violence problems" at a Union League Club luncheon last Thursday. Preckwinkle, a former city alderman and history teacher, also said that the education system is "miserable" to the point where "we've failed our young people."

Preckwinkle stuck to that message Monday, saying she believes in a "holistic approach" to criminal justice that "starts long before people are arrested and detained.”

When asked what that approach included, Preckwinkle stressed improving public schools, funding after-school programs and initiatives like the Community Anti-violence and Restoration Effort, known as thee CARE program. She also said that includes her office working with Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration.

"The mayor and I are going to work together in the way that I described, that is focusing on anti-violence initiatives,” Preckwinkle said.

Preckwinkle also said the county is taking a long, hard look at why the county's jail population is growing, although she shared one reason: Although the city has seen a decrease in all major "index" crimes other than murder — robbery, burglary, arson and criminal or sexual assault — there has been a spike in lesser, "non-index" crimes.

"What’s gone up dramatically is admissions to the jail and those are non-index crimes, in particular weapons charges and drug arrests," she said.

Preckwinkle added her administration is looking at ways to lower the jail population. She gave one example of increasing the number of people on electronic home monitoring as a way to ease overcrowding.

Still, when asked by one reporter if she was less frustrated with Emanuel on Monday than she was last week, Preckwinkle laughed.

"I'm always frustrated," she said.

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