Key issue is public safety in 45th Ward
Most of the six 45th Ward candidates for alderman called for more police officers and the need to address the root causes of crime, although one candidate said police don’t keep the city safe.
“How are we going to address public safety? Number one, get a new mayor. Number two, get a new superintendent, and a state’s attorney … who’s actually going to convict guilty criminals,” Alderman James Gardiner (45th) said.
Gardiner said that the next police superintendent should “come through the ranks of Chicago,” adding that the current superintendent, David Brown, was set up for failure in part because he was not from Chicago.
Gardiner said later in the Feb. 2 forum that Paul Vallas is a mayoral candidate that residents should consider voting for.
Gardiner also said that vocational training in high schools and other job programs are needed to help young people from turning to crime, adding that addressing crime requires “thinking outside the box.”
Ana Santoyo criticized the other candidates for wanting more police officers on the street and said that current “failed” policy needs to be addressed in order to get at the root causes of crime.
“The cops didn’t keep Anthony (Alvarez) safe, and they don’t keep us safe,” said Santoyo, who has led protests regarding the fatal shooting by police of Alvarez, who was armed and running from two officers in 2021.
“Everyone deserves to feel safe in this community, and the question is how do we achieve that?” she said.
Santoyo said that public policy should focus on creating more affordable housing and job opportunities and offering more mental health services. She said that housing is a “human right” and that she would like to see residents paying closer to 10 percent of their income toward their rent or mortgage instead of 60 percent in some instances.
Marija Tomic said that the city needs to hire 2,500 new police officers in an effort to fill its officer vacancies.
“In the short term solution we are going to have to stop the redeployment of our officers,” Tomic said. “We need to bring the officers back onto our streets. … Right now the criminals do know we don’t have police on the streets, so they’re hopping on the highway and coming here.”
Addressing the officer shortage is especially important for the Northwest Side given that the 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District is the largest in the city, at more than 30 square miles, Tomic said.
Susanna Ernst said that “everyone wants to feel safe” but that it can take 30 minutes for police to respond to emergencies when someone is “in danger” because the police department’s resources and personnel are spread thin. She said that emergency medical technicians sometimes arrive to “violent sites” before police. “There’s just not enough (police) to help,” she said.
“Our police are exhausted. They don’t get days off,” Ernst said, adding that the city needs to focus on retaining experienced officers.
Ernst said that the city needs to invest into “non-violence protection” resources to help free up officers for more dangerous situations.
Megan Mathias said that she has spent more than 100 hours with officers and more than 200 hours with residents and community groups interviewing them about public safety. “On a longterm basis there’s no way the police can handle the current situation on their own,” she said.
Mathias said that police should not necessarily be responding to issues such as parking and mental health, adding that a “different response” is needed for those situations.
Mathias said that it’s “unfair to police to cancel their days off without notice. … We shouldn’t being doing that in any context.” She also called for more resources to help police with their mental health and to invest into the root causes of crime.
James Suh said that in terms of public of public safety, “number one, we have to have a fully staffed 16th, 17th police district. We get there by streamlining the hiring process.” He added that more civilians should be hired for clerical tasks so that more officers can be on the street.
Suh said that officers are “disproportionately” responding to issues of mental health and homelessness and that the city should invest in other resources for those issues so that police can spend more time on violent situations.
Suh also called for a stronger focus on after-school and early education programs to better address the root causes of crime.