Cities fed up with violent crime, demand political change

CHICAGO (NewsNation) — Voters in several major cities are so fed up with the increase in violent crime that they want their leaders out immediately, desperate for someone new to take charge.

Nationally, homicides spiked by nearly 30% in 2020 and increased again in 2021. The violence has occurred at the same time many cities have struggled to recruit and retain police officers. For that reason, national debates around public safety are likely to continue heading into 2024.

New Orleans residents are so upset, they have filed a recall petition to kick Mayor LaToya Cantrell out of office. Organizers said they had turned in more than 50,000 signatures needed to trigger a special election to oust Cantrell.

Last year, New Orleans became the murder capital of the nation for having the most homicides per capita over any other city. Last week, a gunman opened fire during a Mardi Gras parade, killing one person and injuring four.

Cantrell won reelection easily in 2021, but has suffered a myriad of political problems since, including criticism about crime, the slow pace of major street repairs and questions over her personal use of a city-owned French Quarter apartment.

NewsNation has reached out to the mayor’s campaign team for a comment but has yet to hear back.

In Chicago, crime has become the No. 1 issue for the election, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot this week failed to advance to the runoff election.

Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, faced eight other candidates. Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, who finished ninth in the 2019 Chicago mayoral race, advanced to the general election Tuesday along with public schoolteacher Brandon Johnson. Vallas had emerged as one of Lightfoot’s top opponents and has made public safety the centerpiece of his campaign. He’s vowed to hire more cops and has the endorsement of the Chicago Police Union.

Lightfoot has criticized Vallas’ relationship with the police and branded him as a Republican in disguise, even accusing him of being fast on the heels of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

During her time in office, Chicago has remained a place where national conversations around education and crime continue to play out. Both issues have been at the center of the current election.

Lightfoot’s opponents have criticized her public safety record, often citing Chicago’s homicide rate, which far exceeds those of other major cities such as New York City and Los Angeles.

Like many American cities, Chicago saw murders skyrocket in 2020. By the end of the year, almost 800 people had been killed, up from about 500 the year before. That number fell to around 700 in 2022, a fact Lightfoot points to as a sign things are moving in the right direction. Car thefts also soared more than 100% since Lightfoot took office.

The mayor has stood by her public safety record and accused the other candidates of being short on concrete solutions.

Meanwhile, there is growing pressure for St. Louis District Attorney Kimberly Gardner to resign.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey is taking Gardner to court, hoping to kick her out of the job. He filed a petition to remove her from office because the city prosecutor refused to step down.

“The circuit attorney has failed to prosecute cases that are pending in her jurisdiction,” Bailey said. “These are cases she’s charged but then allowed to languish and have sat and resulted in eventual dismissal or failure to prosecute.”

The push for her resignation comes in the aftermath of a tragedy involving a Tennessee teenager who lost both of her legs in a crash caused by a driver with dozens of bond violations, NewsNation affiliate KTVI reported.

Janae Edmondson, 17, was visiting St. Louis with her family for a volleyball tournament when she was hit by a speeding car. Investigators said the driver was out on bond for an alleged robbery case and had violated his house arrest orders 51 times with no consequence.

Gardner blames the judge for not revoking bond in the case and said she has no intentions of stepping down from office.

The latest update from the teenager’s GoFundMe said she remained in critical condition but is able to interact with her family, who among many others are expressing their outrage as to why that suspect was not in jail to begin with.

NewsNation’s Andrew Dorn, The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate KTVI contributed to this report


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