Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department Eddie Johnson has unveiled a new online tool aimed at illustrating his point that people accused of gun-related offenses are too quickly and easily getting back on the street, The Associated Press reports. It gives the public a quick way to see who’s been arrested on gun-related charges and whether they have posted bail.
The tool is part of a public relations offensive to draw attention to what Johnson and Mayor Lori Lightfoot say is a cause of gun violence in Chicago, where more people are fatally shot than in any other city in the U.S. But critics decry it as a scare tactic that lumps people arrested while carrying or even standing near a gun with those who have pulled them out and used them. The dispute over the tool stems from a larger disagreement over changes to Cook County’s bail system. To ensure people don’t languish in jail while waiting for trial, the county’s chief judge, Timothy Evans, two years ago implemented a policy that requires judges to set affordable bail amounts for those not deemed a danger to the community. By all accounts, the policy has had a dramatic effect. Today, 1,500 fewer are people in the county’s jail. But Johnson and Lightfoot contend the county’s judicial system is failing to protect the public from violent criminals who they say have discovered that the price of getting caught with a gun can be as little as a day or two of freedom and a couple hundred dollars for bail. Or no money at all.