Acknowledging that law-abiding Chicagoans are afraid to leave their homes for fear of being gunned down on the streets, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday announced a $1 million reward fund for information that leads to the seizure of illegal firearms.
The mayor described the reward fund as the first in a series of steps she plans to unveil over the next week to “think creatively” about ways to stop the unrelenting bloodbath on Chicago streets fueled by gang violence and street justice retaliations.
Lightfoot has long decried the pipeline of illegal guns pouring into Chicago from other states, including Indiana, and demanded that Congress pass, what she calls, “common sense gun laws” to cut off that pipeline.
But on Thursday, she took matters into her own hands.
“We need to think creatively about other tools. That’s why today I’m announcing a million-dollar reward fund … for information that leads to the seizure of illegal firearms. We’re setting up a structure for people to provide tips — anonymous, if you so desire — to point us to the presence of illegal firearms,” the mayor said before breaking ground on the Chicago Park District’s new headquarters campus in Brighton Park.
“If they are in a house, down the block, in a car, in a secret stash, we are calling on our residents to overcome your fears. To no longer be hesitant to report the presence of illegal firearms. This moment that we are in demands each of us to dig down deeper. To step up. … We need everyone’s help to make sure that we are doing everything that we can to address this horrible plague of illegal firearms. And my hope is that this million-dollar reward fund incentivizes people to step up, to speak out and to help us to reclaim our streets from the shooters and the violence.”
Although she claimed the Chicago Police Department was making progress, Lightfoot acknowledged that’s “cold comfort” to Chicagoans “living in daily fear” — so frightened, in fact, that they won’t even come out of their homes and enjoy a summer day or evening because they don’t want to become the next innocent victim of a gang shooting.
She said the bloodbath on Chicago streets is the first and last thing she thinks about and the worry that wakes her up in the middle of the night.
She further acknowledged “too many people are just plain scared” and until she gets the violence under control, “nothing else matters.” The “cloud of violence that hangs over our heads blocks out the sunshine” that Chicagoans should be feeling after enduring the hardships and sacrifices of the coronavirus pandemic, she said.
“The point is this: This crisis demands bold and creative action. It demands more of each of us. And as your mayor, it demands more of me. I willingly and unapologetically accept this challenge,” the mayor said.
“And I hope and certainly pray, with God’s grace, we will work through and lead ourselves to a better place to get through this challenge, just as we have led and gotten through COVID. And I will repeat, until our residents feel safe, nothing else matters. It has been and will remain my highest priority.”
After the groundbreaking, Lightfoot said the $1 million reward fund would come from the city’s corporate fund.
“I called the budget director and said, `OK, here’s what I need,’ ” the mayor said.
“It’s gonna run through the CPD tip line. We’ll get specific details out as to when it will be active. Yes, we will be giving out individual amounts. But we’re gonna work through those details and let you know.”