Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is suggesting that her city’s dramatic rise in carjackings since the start of the coronavirus pandemic is linked to students being kept away from classrooms with remote learning.
Lightfoot argued in favor of the connection Monday as Chicago announced that it is expanding its vehicular hijacking task force and installing more cameras and license plate readers around the city in hopes of preventing the crimes.
“We are seeing an inordinate number of juveniles that are the perpetrators of these carjackings. I think in Chicago we have consistently seen 50 percent or higher of the people that we are arresting are juveniles,” Lightfoot told reporters.
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“We started seeing this rise in cases in 2020. And I’ll be frank and say in Chicago there was a correlation we believe between remote learning and the rise in carjackings,” she added. “Having talked to state attorneys who are dealing with these cases in juvenile court and others, a lot of parents went to work during the day thinking their teenagers were logged on for remote learning, only to find something else. And I ask, ‘is there some new market for stolen cars?’ And unfortunately the answer was no — that for many of these kids, some of whom had no prior involvement in the criminal justice system, this was pure boredom.”
Data compiled by CBS Chicago shows that there were 603 carjackings in 2019, before that number rose to 1,413 in 2020 and 1,850 last year.
From the beginning of 2015 until the start of 2020, there were only 3 months in Chicago where the number of carjackings recorded was 100 or more, the station’s data shows. However, since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, there have been 18 months with 100 or more recorded carjackings.
And there also was an 11-year-old arrested for a carjacking around Thanksgiving last year.
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“No resident in the city of Chicago or the Chicagoland area deserves to live in fear of violence,” Lightfoot said. “But the sad reality is that in the last year and a half in particular, there is a very real and pervasive fear of carjacking across our city, our region and our state. And in actuality carjackings have become a national crisis.”
The Chicago Teachers Union – which has repeatedly clashed with Lightfoot and the city over bringing students back into classrooms during the pandemic – described the mayor’s remarks about carjackings and remote learning as “inflammatory, hurtful smears against our students.”
“Every child in our public schools in Chicago deserves an apology from the mayor today, who claimed with zero evidence that there was a correlation between remote learning in 2020 and an increase in car-jackings, which have been growing across the nation,” the union said in a statement.
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“Is the reason she resisted moving to remote learning during the Omicron surge because her bogus belief in that false correlation has become part of her crime-fighting tactics?” the statement added.
Chicago Public Schools are currently teaching students in person.