Articles Tagged with violent crime

Hilulaohaio-225x300Chicago has sought to deal with the increasing problem of hate crime using legislative means. The provisions of the Illinois Hate Crime Act (IHCA), 720 ILCS 5/12-7.1, are the leading authority on the management of the criminal process. The act creates an imperative on the state to prosecute but does not explicitly remove the opportunity for private civil cases to take place. Many victims take the opportunity to sue for damages, even when the aggressor is a public authority or their representatives. The range of options for the court includes actual damages, punitive damages, and additional costs, including attorney fees. At other times, the court may offer injunctive relief in order to stop the offending behavior from happening.

The criteria for what constitutes a hate crime can be fluid and those who offend have often used the ambiguity of definitions in order to attempt a get-out-clause for their behavior. Typically, they will claim that this is a case of freedom of speech, which is constitutionally guaranteed. For those who actually go on to commit acts of violence, the case is much simpler since the prosecutor can go for the assault line of questioning and later prove that hate-inspired motives were at play. A crime becomes a hate crime when it is motivated by perceived creed, race, color, gender, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, nationality and even membership of a particular group. Bigotry is at the heart of this crime and will be part of the Mens Rea during the prosecution.

The Importance of the Motivating Factors

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The Wisconsin State Journal reports that two suspects are currently in custody in Illinois in connection with a violent home invasion that took place in Madison last January. Allegedly, the two suspects robbed a 27-year-old man at gunpoint, forced the man into his apartment, and once inside bound the man and his girlfriend with duct tape. The couple claims that the robbers demanded more money and pointed a gun at their 3-year-old daughter’s head. Eventually, the father broke free of his bonds, lunged at one of the gunmen, and was shot multiple times. Thankfully all members of the family survived. Now that both suspects are in custody, they have been charged with several crimes, including false imprisonment.

What is False Imprisonment?

In Illinois, false imprisonment occurs when an individual’s personal liberty or freedom of locomotion is unlawfully restrained. Before a defendant can be convicted of false imprisonment the prosecution must prove the following two elements:

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Last month, African American teenager Paul O’Neal was killed when a Chicago police officer shot him in the back during a controversial arrest. This shooting has outraged the African American community in Chicago and has worsened the already strained relationship between the police and the community. In fact, Fox News reports that three Chicago gangs are plotting to shoot police officers in retaliation. Apparently the Chicago Police Department (CPD) alerted its officers last week that three local gangs, the Vice Lords, the Black Disciples, and the Four Corner Hustlers, met in order to exchange guns and discuss plans to shoot CDP officers.  

Penalties for Killing, Harming, or Intimidating a Police Officer

Under federal law 18 U.S.C. § 1121, it is a capital offense to intentionally kill a state or local law enforcement officer or employee, who is working with federal law enforcement officials during a criminal investigation,:

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There is no doubt about it, this year Chicago is experiencing a serious spike in shootings and murders. In fact, ABC7  reports that there were 65 fatal shootings in July alone. What is to blame for this spike in violence? While there are undoubtedly many contributing factors, the head of the Chicago Police Union claims that police paperwork is in large part to blame. In an interview with DNAinfo the union leader explained that the problem does not exclusively stem from paperwork issues, but that the implementation of two-page Investigative Stop Reports has led to fewer police stops and, therefore, more violent crimes being perpetrated on the streets.

Chicago’s New Two-Page Investigative Stop Reports

Starting on January 1, 2016, Chicago’s old checklist contact cards were replaced with two-page Investigative Stop Reports. Under the old contact card system, every time a police officer interacted with a civilian on the street the officer would document the encounter via a simple checklist on an index-sized contact card. However, police officers are now required to document each encounter by filling out a two-page questionnaire. This new requirement means that police officers in Chicago are spending much more time filling out paperwork and much less time interacting with people on the street. An article from DNAinfo notes that during the first 11 days under the new policy there was a 79% decrease in police stops. The article states that there were just 3,916 investigative reports filed during these 11 days, compared to the 16,698 reports that were filed during the same period last year under the old system. This difference is clearly astronomical.

police officersThere have been several incidents recently where a Chicago Police Officer has been involved in conduct that was either illegal or borderline illegal. This should not reflect on the hundreds of officers that are outstanding in the performance of their duties, but unfortunately, it does. The responsibility should be laid at the feet of the administrators that turn a blind eye to problem officers who create an atmosphere of mistrust in their communities.

The Chicago Police Department recently came under fire over the perceived “code of silence” with respect to giving any evidence of potential police corruption within a precinct. A federal court judge has given a green light for Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel to be called before the court to give testimony regarding this practice. This court ruling may have significant ramifications for the way the police department will be required to conduct their investigations into internal affairs going forward.

The actions of police departments across the nation have been placed under microscopic scrutiny due to several highly politicized incidents involving law enforcement and the neighborhoods that they patrol. In several incidents, the police have been exonerated. Even so, some believe that cover ups do occur. In such a climate, any possibility that evidence of true police misconduct is being covered up by a “code of silence” will lead to mistrust, especially in those communities that need the police the most.

43724062_51f3a21a88Street gang violence in the inner cities has become a way of life. News reports about shootings and killing on any given weekend is now Monday morning’s “yawn” story. But how can that be? Young men and women being shot down in the streets become just another statistic. A life lost, snuffed out by an “unidentified” assailant, is how the story goes. The assailant cannot be identified even though the probability of the residents of these closed neighborhoods not knowing who does what in the community is slim to none. Law enforcement’s hands are tied because of the desensitization and unwillingness of neighbors in the communities to get involved.

Sometimes You are Just in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

An adjunct to the tragic story of Lee McCullum is the equally tragic story of Tiara Parks, the 23 year old girlfriend of McCullum. Parks was also the daughter of a Cook County Sheriff’s Deputy, a college student and a working mother. It is not known at this time what the possible motive for this murder was. Two other individuals were wounded in this drive-by shooting, one in the leg and one in the back. During the time of the shootings, there were approximately twenty people in the area, standing around as Parks and her companions were shot down as they exited their car in front of the Haley Elementary Academy. It is also unknown at this time if Parks or either of her companions, or all three of them, were the targets of this shooting.

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Like most cities, Chicago’s violent crimes seem local to certain areas and districts. Those areas taint the entire city with their reputation of violence. Specifically, neighborhoods that are infested with gangs and street thugs, like Austin and Englewood, have a murder rate that is much higher than any other part of the city. But when anyone thinks about Chicago, they think that it is one large area where gangs rule. Sociologist refers to this typically as the “crime gap.” Theory has it that the “crime gap” advances as the “income gap” gets wider; that they are linked in such a way that unemployment and poverty creates the atmosphere where wants and needs conjoin to create the stagnant pond that eventually gives birth to crime and violent behavior. This theory is played out in neighborhood after neighborhood. The most crime infested communities are those where poverty is the rule of the day.

Fixing the Problem is Harder Than You Think

Theories aside, is there a way to fix this problem? A good start would be to bring industry back into the communities, but employers are not likely to relocate into areas overrun with violent crime. To end poverty, you need to bring employers back into the inner cities but the employers will not come back unless crime can be controlled. Entitlement programs are bandages in a situation that needs a tourniquet. Those that can move out of the city altogether, are doing so.

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A series of events led to the death of a Chicago man, Marques Gaines, that is now being called a homicide by the coroner’s office. Gaines and an unidentified man started arguing outside a 7-Eleven Store. The argument escalated, ending up with the unidentified man assaulting Gaines in front of the store and leaving him unconscious in the street.

Several bystanders rifled through Gaines’ pockets and robbed him while he lay unconscious. Other bystanders walked casually over and around the unconscious man but no one attempted to help him. Eventually, a taxi cab driver ran over Gaines. Gaines was taken to the hospital and later pronounced dead.

The question is who is responsible for Gaines’ “murder.” Was it the unidentified man who punched Gaines and left him unconscious in the street? Was it the bystanders who robbed him while he lay unconscious in the street and failed to assist him; or was it the cab driver, who may not have known that Gaines was lying unconscious in the street, but who ended up running over him? Who is ultimately responsible for Gaines’ death, and who will be charged with his murder?

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There is a war going on in Chicago, as well as in other parts of the country, between law enforcement and political activists. Meanwhile, the residents of those communities are caught in the cross-fires. This has been a bloody year for Chicagoans, and there does not seem to be any let up in the near future. In the past three months there have been over 100 individuals murdered on the streets of Chicago.

An obvious reason for this could be the link between the ongoing anti-police protests, sparked by political activists, lack of support from superiors for police officers in the field, and police morale. The new spike in violent crimes in Chicago and elsewhere may have everything to do with a combination of all of these elements.

Heightened Scrutiny of Law Enforcement

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On the rise, and all across the nation, patrons of fast-food eateries are waging war against these establishments in the form of criminal activity; actually they are engaging in fast-food fights with the establishments’ workers over errors in food orders, etc., and sometimes just because they want to fight an easy target. The mistake in the order just may be the excuse.

These occurrences have become equivalent to “off” road rage as patrons, looking for their favorite fast-food burger, chicken nuggets, or breakfast meal deal have taken to attacking and assaulting fast-food workers over disputes about their abilities to “have it their way.” What is the psychology behind this? Is this a natural phenomenon amongst people who frequent fast-food restaurants and if so, what is causing it?

Is it the Food or Something Else?