CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Carjackings have risen drastically across the country since the start of the pandemic in some of America’s largest cities.
Minneapolis, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City have seen an uptick. For example, Chicago saw nearly 1,900 carjacking incidents last year alone — a 30% increase since 2020.
Under a lot of scrutiny, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said there’s a direct correlation between the rise in carjackings and remote learning, in a press conference Monday discussing how the city is working to curb the problem.
“A lot of parents went to work during the day thinking their teenagers were logged on to remote learning, only to find something else,” Lightfoot said. “I’ll be frank and say in Chicago, there was a correlation that we believe in remote learning and the rise in carjacking.”
Lightfoot also claimed some students were committing carjacking crimes out of “pure boredom.”
Many people are not happy about Lightfoot’s comment.
The Chicago Teachers Union immediately slammed the mayor’s comments, calling them inflammatory, hurtful and racist.
“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 carjackings, which have been growing across the nation. To suggest that our students are somehow disproportionately responsible for these crimes is precisely the kind of scapegoating and smear tactics Black and Brown students and adults have had to contend with in any discourse about crime for generations,” the CTU wrote.
Some criminal justice professors said the comments are inaccurate and too soon to make the judgment.
Dr. James Densley, a criminal justice professor at Metropolitan State University, said a correlation between a rise in carjackings and remote learning is presumptuous.
“To draw a straight line between the two is quite disingenuous actually because I even think the criminologists like myself who study this, we don’t fully understand the nature and extent of this,” Densley said.
Lightfoot said more than half of the offenders in Chicago are under 18. But when asked if the claim is accurate according to criminal crime data across the nation, Densley said, “The people that tend to get caught are the juveniles, so it creates a selection bias in the data, because it looks like everyone who is doing this is young, but that is simply because we are not catching the criminals that are old.”
Densley said that older criminals do it for the money, and juveniles often commit carjacking for status and joyrides.
Investigative journalist and WGN Radio host Anna Davlantes said Lightfoot seems to have found a correlation that “no one else has been able to find.”
“It doesn’t seem to add up to say that remote learning is what caused the surge in carjackings. It’s a bit of a stretch at most and it really isn’t supported by facts,” she said. “If you look at the two months before remote learning even began, carjacking surged 70% in [Chicago]; that’s not a small number, and it doesn’t fit the narrative.”
So what is the answer to combat the uptick in carjacking? Critics blame the lack of criminal justice reform and punishment for the uptick; however, others, like Lightfoot, say harsher punishment is not the answer either.
“I am not one that believes when you arrest juveniles that you lock them up and throw away the key; that can’t be the answer,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot wants to see more community involvement and policing to combat the issue.
Chicago police said there had been more than 170 carjacking reports so far this year, which is down more than 20% compared to the same period in 2021.