Op-ed: Kim Foxx’s pro-criminal policies are to blame for rising violence

Chicago has a rich history — a lot of it good and a lot of it bad. To commemorate four milestones in its history, city leaders placed four six-pointed stars on the city’s flag. Three of those stars celebrate noted events and the establishment of a key historical location. The other star represents the city’s greatest tragedy: the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which killed approximately 300 people, destroyed more than 17,000 buildings and burned 2,100 acres.

Sadly, it’s time to add a new star to the city’s flag because the Great Chicago Fire’s destruction doesn’t hold a candle to the carnage caused by today’s tragic violence. This violence is largely predictable, preventable and the result of pro-criminal policies, especially those of Kim Foxx, Chicago’s radical, rogue prosecutor.


After Foxx won the election in 2016, but before she was sworn in on Dec. 1 of that year, she appointed a transition team to develop policy recommendations. Kamala Harris, who at the time was the attorney general and a senator-elect for the state of California, and Ron Sullivan Jr., a Harvard University law professor, co-chaired that team.

Together, the team came up with 23 recommendations for Foxx, which she published in a report on Dec. 5, 2016, shortly after taking office. The recommendations included the need to build an “expansive and effective diversion system for juveniles and emerging adults” and a call to end the “school to prison pipeline.”


Nowhere in the report is there a mention of targeting career felons for prosecution or other commonsense tactics for tackling violent crime.

Once she took command, Foxx announced that she would not allow her prosecutors to prosecute certain crimes, including certain theft and drug offenses. They weren’t allowed to seek bail for most offenders, and they were prohibited from seeking appropriate sentences even for repeat violent offenders.

After all, the numbers don’t lie. In the six years before she was elected as Cook County state’s attorney, Chicago experienced an average of 455 homicides per year (2010-2015). That was still a high number, but compared with what took place between 1991 and 1998, when there was an average of 845 homicides per year, it looked relatively good.

In 2016, the year Foxx was elected, homicides spiked to 778 and, through 2021, have averaged 680 per year. In 2021 alone, there were 797 homicides, according to Tribune reporting. Last year, there were 695 — a 13% decrease from the year before, but still 240 more lost lives than the average before Foxx took office.

A majority of homicide victims during Foxx’s tenure have been black men.

Foxx also effectively declared open season on retail stores by raising the bar for prosecuting felony shoplifting to $1,000 per incident — despite the Illinois legislature’s determination that a lower amount should suffice for a felony.

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Rob Karr, the president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said in 2016 that he was “extraordinarily shocked and disappointed” in Foxx’s rewriting of the laws, adding that it “sends a message that retail theft is victimless and not serious,” which couldn’t be further from the truth.


Of course, the numbers have borne this out. Since November 2016 when Foxx was elected, reports of retail theft have skyrocketed..

The sad irony of these policies, and of the policies pushed by the rogue prosecutor movement more broadly, is that they hurt the minority members of the community they are supposedly designed to help. Under the false pretense of making amends for the “racist” criminal justice system, Foxx enacted policies that actually lead to more young black men being victims of violent crime — particularly shootings and homicides.

In the midst of this tragedy, Chicago’s politicians are, per usual, more concerned about optics than their constituents. With the Democratic National Convention set to take place in Chicago next year, officials — notably, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, known as the “iron fist in the velvet glove” by insiders — are working hard to take crime off the front pages. So, it should come as no surprise that Foxx this year announced that she won’t run for reelection.

But despite Democrats’ attempts to save face, the carnage can’t be overlooked, and until Foxx’s policies are reversed, things are likely to only get worse. In 18 months, when Foxx’s reign ends, the city should add another star to its flag to remind its citizens never to repeat this nightmare.

Charles “Cully” Stimson is a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Zack Smith is a legal fellow and manager of the Supreme Court and Appellate Advocacy Program at the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation.

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