Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) gathered with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and other elected, and law enforcement, officials at the Cook County Sheriff’s headquarters in Maywood on Monday, Oct. 26. They called on the Board of Commissioners to vote for an ordinance that would establish a county gun violence coordinator and a task force to study the problem before issuing policy recommendations.
“The time has come to face the fact that certain parts of Chicago and Cook County have become war zones,” Boykin noted in a statement released by his office on Monday.
The statement cited data provided by the Cook County Medical Examiner demonstrating that there’s been a dramatic rise in the number of shootings and gun-related homicides in Chicago and the county this year. According to the data, shootings in the county are up 25 percent over this time last year — in Chicago more than 2,400 people were injured in shootings and in Cook County more than 520 have been shot to death.
“We must confront this painful reality,” Boykin stated. “And we must confront the costs that are associated with that reality. The University of Chicago Crime Lab estimated that gun violence in the City of Chicago costs taxpayers $2.5 billion each year. That’s roughly $2,500 per household.”
Boykin first called for the creation of a gun violence coordinator and task force in July. Since then, he noted, the proposed ordinance has changed slightly.
“Whereas before, it had President Preckwinkle making the appointment of the gun violence coordinator, now it has Sheriff Dart making the appointment,” said Boykin during a recent phone interview. Boykin said Dart’s office will absorb the costs associated with the coordinator position and the nine-member task force.
Boykin said the name change — the ‘gun violence coordinator’ position has been changed from ‘gun violence czar’ — was motivated by recent international affairs.
“I changed it because of all the stuff that’s happening in Syria and the fact that the Russians seem to be handing us our lunch there and in other places,” he said. “Around the globe, the Russians seem to be beating us. I wanted to make it plain that this is not related to Russia, so a fifth-grader can understand what this is.”
Earlier this month, the Board of Commissioners unanimously referred the ordinance to the criminal justice committee, which is a committee of the whole. The ordinance comes up for a vote at tomorrow’s Oct. 28 regular board meeting.
Boykin said he’s confident the proposal will pass, since it has the support of Dart and a number of political powers, including his former boss U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (7th), Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (2nd) and various local law enforcement officials — most of whom were present at a violence prevention roundtable Boykin convened last Monday at the sheriff’s headquarters.
“This alone won’t solve the issue of gun violence,” Boykin said, referencing the proposed ordinance. “It won’t bring people a level of assurance that they’re safe in their neighborhoods, but it’s a step in the right direction. It’s an acknowledgment that there’s a crisis and that we have to reach solutions and knock down bureaucratic boundaries.”