(The Center Square) – Cook County Sherriff Tom Dart says the county continues to struggle with car thefts and violent crime higher than pre-pandemic levels.
U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, hosted a virtual townhall meeting Tuesday in which residents of the county could call and ask questions.
As Casten’s guest, Dart was asked what is being done to slow crime in the county.
“These are complex issues with all sorts of different rationales behind how we got there, what can work and what can’t work,” Dart said. “There needs to be an understanding of A, what the facts are, and B, that this is complex with multiple facets to the whole thing.”
Dart said there have been improvements over the past few years when looking at violent crime.
“Have there been improvements in a lot of different areas of crime? There have been,” Dart said. “Shootings throughout the country, specifically in Chicago, are down. Have they reached pre-2019 levels? No.”
Last month, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the state’s ban on certain semi-automatic firearms in Illinois. However, Dart said guns are still more prevalent than ever before.
“The wild availability of guns is incredible,” Dart said. “I’ve never seen it, from my days as a prosecutor till now. It used to be rare to pull someone over and find a gun, but now it’s flipped. Now it’s rare when we don’t find a gun in a car.”
Carjackings have also increased in the county over the past few years. Dart said they have slowed in 2023, but with how many they were seeing each year, the numbers had no choice but to go down.
“If you took all the carjackings in New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, the big ones, put them all together, and we had more [carjackings] than any of them collectively last year,” Dart said.
Motor vehicle thefts are up 94%, and burglaries are up 29% year to date. Robberies are up 24% year to date, according to Chicago Police statistics. Shootings are down 12% year to date.
Dart became sheriff of Illinois’ largest county in 2006 and previously spent time in the Illinois General Assembly.