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'PANDEMIC OF VIOLENCE': Lightfoot's record on crime at the forefront of Chicago mayoral election

The Chicago mayoral election, set to take place early next year, comes amid an unprecedented spike in crime as incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot seeks to defend her post in the mayor’s office against numerous challengers.

Several individuals have announced their candidacy in the race ahead of the Nov. 28 filing deadline and will face off in the Windy City’s nonpartisan mayoral election slated for Feb. 28.

While there are a number of issues in focus ahead of the election, crime is a central priority for both candidates and voters. Homicides in the deep-blue city rose to their highest number in 25 years in 2021, according to police department records, outpacing New York City and Los Angeles.

Several candidates who aim to serve as Chicago’s 57th mayor told Fox News Digital they believe that Lightfoot has not fulfilled promises to make the city a safer environment as they stressed the importance of supporting police and tackling crime head on.

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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who assumed office in May 2019, is facing scrutiny from other mayoral candidates who conclude she has not fulfilled campaign promises.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who assumed office in May 2019, is facing scrutiny from other mayoral candidates who conclude she has not fulfilled campaign promises.
(Tim Mosenfelder, Getty Images)

“Chicago needs a leader who understands our city, its people, its history and its character. It needs someone who is a consensus builder, someone who is willing to work with everyone from across the city, who doesn’t get into feuds and has a thick skin. None of those things describe our current mayor,” said Roderick Sawyer, the son of former Chicago Mayor Eugene Sawyer.

Looking to follow in his father’s footsteps as mayor, Sawyer, a current member of the Chicago City Council who was elected to represent the South Side’s 6th Ward in 2011, insisted that a “role such as mayor requires someone who has a history of working on budgets, passing legislation and finding practical solutions.”

“We have a public safety crisis that I won’t claim is entirely the fault of our current mayor, though she certainly hasn’t helped,” Sawyer said. “We need to address public safety and crime from a wide variety of angles. We have a level of crime anxiety that affects everyone, even those who don’t live in our most crime-affected areas.”

“Police reform is an important and frequently misunderstood component of crime reduction,” he added. “We need a strong police force, but a police department is strongest when it is respected and welcomed in all communities, not feared in some. Reform is not a tool to weaken police but to empower them.”

Sawyer believes that Lightfoot “does not play well with others” and “chooses petty feuds over leadership and her priorities are puzzling at best.” Regarding Lightfoot’s ability to lead, Sawyer, who noted that he grew up in a part of Chicago with a high crime rate, said the current mayor “is not respected or liked by the police department, and yet she has stood in the way of one of her primary campaign promises — meaningful police reform.” 

Ald. Roderick Sawyer, one of three aldermen seeking to unseat Mayor Lori Lightfoot, on March 30, 2022. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Ald. Roderick Sawyer, one of three aldermen seeking to unseat Mayor Lori Lightfoot, on March 30, 2022. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
(Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

“I have a very positive working relationship with the police in my ward and all over the city — they know me as someone who has been here all of my life and wants to make our department stronger and more effective,” he said.

Similarly, Frederick Collins, a 29-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, told Fox that he believes Chicago needs “a leader who will not only listen to its citizens and their needs, but take charge of the immediate issues plaguing our city and get real results.”

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“The citizens of this great city are sick and tired of this unprecedented crime wave, which has now touched neighborhoods like nothing before,” Collins stated.

Collins, who made an unsuccessful ran for mayor of the city in 2015, said his experience as a law enforcement officer has prepared him with the ability to lead Chicago and “deploy tactics and methods that would help curb crime and get criminals off our streets.”

“These politicians in this race only have theories and political wish lists on how to deal with crime and no real experience,” he said. “Chicago has a litany of problems in need of an immediate resolution, but if we don’t get this issue of crime under control, we will not have much of a city left.”

If elected, Collins said one of his first priorities in office would be to “take the handcuffs off the police and allow them to do their jobs effectively and get rid of the so-called no-chase policy.” Additionally, Collins said he would “deploy stop and frisk, considering police have body camera technology which would allow greater transparency into justifying why the individual(s) were stopped for reasonable cause.”

Frederick Collins, a 29-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department who looks to unseat Lightfoot in the 2023 Chicago mayoral election.

Frederick Collins, a 29-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department who looks to unseat Lightfoot in the 2023 Chicago mayoral election.
(Frederick Collins)

Asked about Lightfoot’s leadership of the city and whether he believes she has been an effective leader, Collins said, “No! And here’s why. When I speak to potential voters on their doorsteps or at a local grocery store, I ask them what they can point to that made their lives better in this city now than four or five or years ago. They can’t name one, and this is no lie.”

“Mayor Lightfoot has her shortcomings, but the voters know this, so I’m not going to focus on her. This is a job interview, and what I will demonstrate to the voters is the time is now to ditch the politicians and hire a public servant who believes in serving the people and not the other way around.”

State Rep. Kambium Buckner, a Democrat who represents the 26th District in the Illinois House of Representatives, is also making crime a focus in the race. “We need a leader who will fight for Chicago, not against everyone else. We need a leader who is from this city and knows its people. We need a leader who understands how government works on all levels and has the experience to back it up,” Buckner told Fox.

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Asked about the most pertinent problems facing Chicago, Buckner said his “4-Star Plan,” detailed on his website, will work toward “a safer and more just Chicago, improved education for all, economic opportunity and recovery, and stabilizing Chicago’s finances.”

“Chicagoans need both increased public safety and increased public security,” Buckner said. “Public security is about making sure our law enforcement officers have what they need to protect communities from crime, and public safety is about making sure communities have the resources they need: a quality education, affordable housing, healthcare, and good paying jobs.”

Buckner, a former intern for Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, said Lightfoot “has not delivered on her promises” after she “promised us a safer Chicago and greater investment in the root causes of violence.”

“People across this city have not been this afraid since the crime spikes in the 90s. Not only has the Mayor not delivered, but she has no plan,” he said. “I, on the other hand, have a plan and the track record to back it up. I was instrumental in banning ghost guns in Illinois, making us the first state in the Midwest to do so.”

“Chicago is suffering a horrifying pandemic of violence,” Buckner added. “Crime, and homicides in particular, is the worst it’s been since 1996. In 2021, a staggering 797 people were murdered, and shootings have gone up 53% since 2018. Carjackings — happening in neighborhoods across the city — have increased over 200% from 2019.”

Illinois State Rep. Kambium Buckner announces his candidacy for Chicago mayor on May 12, 2022.

Illinois State Rep. Kambium Buckner announces his candidacy for Chicago mayor on May 12, 2022.
(Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Buckner said he will address the crime wave in the city with a “Safer 77 plan,” which includes “specifics about improved community policing, co-responder models for mental health crises, and increased security on the CTA to protect both passengers and employees.”

Candidates seeking to run for mayor in Chicago are required to collect at least 12,500 petition signatures from registered voters in the city in order to appear on the ballot. Lightfoot previously told reporters that she would be submitting her signatures on the final possible day to submit petitions in an attempt to garner the final spot on the ballot.

“We will be filing on Nov. 28,” she said. “There’s no magic to it, but we’ll wait til the 28th to file, the last day to file, as we did four years ago.”

Under Chicago law, candidates who file on the final day are entered into a lottery for the last spot on the ballot, and candidates who file on the first possible day are entered into a lottery to appear first on the ballot. Candidates who file on those days hope to stand out by appearing at the top or bottom of the ballot in a crowded field of challengers.

Though the numbers of people shot or killed across the city are down this year, there has still been a 35% increase in all reported crimes in 2022, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Despite the rise in crime, Lightfoot has defended her record on the issue as mayor and touted a “multitiered strategy” to curb gang and gun crimes in August

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Lightfoot’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the issue of crime and how it will play a role in the Chicago mayoral race.

Other mayoral candidates in the race who did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment ahead of the election include Democratic Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Ja’Mal Green, Sophia King, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, Alderman Sophia King, Paul Vallas and Willie Wilson.

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