Roving mobs of teens are beating and robbing pedestrians and cyclists on the Lake Michigan shore, in Streeterville and the Magnificent Mile. These are adjoining upscale recreational, retailing and residential neighborhoods full of tourists, shoppers, diners and people out on the town to enjoy the sights and the good weather when we have it. For years these neighborhoods have been very family-safe places for all Chicagoans to visit.
If the accumulating reports are correct, teenagers from the South Side of Chicago are using texting and social networking to converge on these areas, where they move in mobs, attacking individuals without provocation, stealing from retailers, swarming stores and creating fear and chaos. The attacks are taking place in broad daylight. There were numerous attacks over the weekend, attacks on recent weekdays and attacks on Memorial Day that led to the closing of our beaches and, apparently, attacks last year that the city managed to keep quiet.
I believe incarceration should be used as little as possible. Jail, prison and juvenile detention should be reserved for repeat non-violent offenders whose crimes cause great harm and for people who commit unprovoked violence--the kind of violence we're seeing now in Chicago.
I don't like, but understand, violence that occurs because of heated arguments--kids coming to blows in disputes that escalate. Adolescents, especially, get stupid when they're angry. That isn't acceptable, but I don't think confinement is always necessary in such cases. However, I have no inclination to go soft on people, including teens, who engage in unprovoked violence. These are kids who terrorize their peers and their adult neighbors, and now they're terrorizing people outside their neighborhoods. They need to be separated from the more civilized population.
No room in detention? Release some non-violent offenders and people convicted of non-violent drug crimes. We rely on prison for far too many people who can be dealt with in other ways. Sentences for non-violent crimes are, IMO, too lengthy in many cases.
I'm not interested in making these violent kids suffer. Retaliation is not rehabilitation. I'd like to see serious rehabilitation efforts, but these kids must be separated from the populations they terrorize. They do not belong on our streets.
Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy says police have already arrested 20 teens. Three adult teens are now locked up with bail set at $200,000 apiece. Based on reports following the Memorial Day rampages, it sounds like there may be 50-100 young thugs who need confinement. McCarthy insists that police will "hunt down every last thug and throw the book at them."
For now, color me skeptical, and let's just hope they throw the book at the right kids. Arresting the wrong kids, just to appear that they're doing something, doesn't help anyone, and it harms the innocent.