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City Leaders Watch How Crime Issue Plays Out In Chicago Mayor Runoff

Crime is the central issue in Tuesday's mayoral runoff in Chicago, where voters are choosing between two candidates with contrasting approaches to public safety, Reuters reports. Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas calls for more cops; Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson wants more mental health support and opportunities for young people. The two are squaring off to run the third-largest U.S. city after incumbent Lori Lightfoot finished third out of nine candidates in the previous round, when no one managed to cross the 50% line. The nonpartisan race in the heavily left-leaning city has tested Democratic messaging on policing in the U.S., three years after widespread protests after the police murder of George Floyd and months after Republicans sought to bludgeon Democrats over the issue in the 2022 midterm elections.

Vallas says he will hire more than 1,500 police officers. Johnson would invest in youth summer employment programs for at-risk youth and spend more on mental health treatment. "Other cities will watch - particularly mayors and incumbent mayors who want to stay in office - to really see how voters react," said Nick Kachiroubas, a public administration professor at DePaul University in Chicago. "The question becomes which approach wins and what is the reaction to that new policing strategy." The candidate who comes out ahead will inherit a city in which the number of murders since 2018 has increased by 20%. In 2021, there were 804 murders, the most in a quarter century. Car thefts have doubled and other types of theft have risen by a quarter over the last five years. In addition to hiring hundreds more officers, Vallas, a former Chicago budget director who grew up on the city's South Side, wants to reinstitute a community policing model and create a victim and witness protection and services program, all with his intention to get tough on crime.


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