Judges in Chicago have increasingly ordered criminal defendants placed into an electronic-monitoring program in lieu of jail, a move police officials blame for the surge in gun violence plaguing the city.
On Aug. 9, 43 people facing murder charges were enrolled in Cook County's electronic-monitoring program, a 40% increase from the same day last year. In addition, 160 people charged with robbery and 1,000 people charged with illegal gun possession are enrolled as of Aug. 9, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The Chicago Police Department has cited the increase in program participants who would otherwise be granted high bail or remanded to police custody for the spike in gunplay.
"My hope is that the deaths of these young people will not be in vain and will prick the hearts of the decision-makers who release violent offenders on electronic monitoring back into these very communities to mete out this kind of violence every weekend," police Superintendent David Brown said after a bloody Independence Day weekend during which two children, ages 7 and 14, were killed.
Nathan Wallace stands outside of his home holding a button showing his daughter, Natalia Wallace. Natalia, 7, was killed on the west side of Chicago on July 4. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
None of the three of the men charged in the shooting death of 7-year-old Natalia Wallace over the holiday weekend was ordered into the monitoring program, according to the newspaper. However, the department gave the Times several examples of defendants charged with violent crimes who committed more offenses while subject to electronic monitoring.
One is Chrishawn Thomas, 18, who is accused of robbing a female driver in March at gunpoint. He was granted $500 bail and placed on electronic monitoring. Weeks later, the Cook County Sheriff's Office received an “unauthorized leave” alert related to Thomas.
Hours later, he allegedly shot an off-duty Chicago police officer during an attempted robbery. The officer returned fire and hit Thomas in the legs. Thomas was arrested and is being held without bail.
People typically placed on electronic monitoring are usually required to stay home with exceptions typically made for school or work.
Chief Cook County Judge Timothy Evans said judges “must balance the right of the defendant to be presumed innocent with any evidence that the defendant would pose a real and present threat to the physical safety of any person.”
The number of people released from detention and into monitoring has increased because of the coronavirus pandemic, the newspaper reported. Correctional facilities throughout the country have similarly reduced their inmate populations in an effort to prevent infections.
More than 3,330 people in Cook County are being monitored electronicall, which is up from 2,200 last year, according to the Times.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has pushed back against claims that the people free on bail are responsible for Chicago's uptick in violent crime. She said one statistic shows that most of the 1,800 arrests for illegal gun possession in the first half of the year only had only 26 repeat offenders, the Times report said. Others have said the violence could be attributed to a decrease in traffic stops and arrests.
On Tuesday, the sheriff's office announced it will transition from radio frequency to GPS bracelets, which is expected to be complete by October. The new bracelets will allow messages to be sent to the person wearing it if they are not complying with the program, according to the sheriff's office.
Vibrations, tones and voice calls could be used to communicate with the person wearing the bracelet.