Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, continuing the drumbeat for tougher laws for repeat gun offenders, grew frustrated and then angry Friday as he lamented the slow-moving legislation in the works.
"Listen, they promised me they would have something done in January," he said while responding to a reporter's question at a news conference on the arrests of 81 people on narcotics and weapons charges in overnight raids. "We're at the end of February."
Johnson, under pressure as Chicago's seemingly runaway violence draws repeated comments from President Donald Trump, raised his voice in frustration and then anger as he spoke about officers on the street needing help from legislators and the criminal justice system.
"That's why we call these guys repeat gun offenders," said Johnson, emphasizing the word "repeat." "They're not new to us. They're not new to us. But the simple fact is we need the judicial system and our legislators to help us with this."
While it's important to address the economic woes of impoverished, crime-ridden neighborhoods, he said grieving families who have lost loved ones to violence want answers now.
"Right now, when I go into homes on the South and West sides of Chicago, those mothers aren't asking me about long-term solutions," he said. "They want to know 'how come that guy killed my son and is still out there? And you all know who it is.'"
Johnson's remarks come as Chicago continues to be embattled in the national spotlight for its seemingly nonstop violence, mostly on the South and West sides.
Wednesday alone saw seven people fatally shot in Chicago, making it the deadliest day in Chicago so far this year and putting the start of 2017 on a par with last year, when the city recorded the most killings in two decades.
Trump took note, tweeting, "Seven people shot and killed yesterday in Chicago. What is going on there - totally out of control. Chicago needs help!"
Through Wednesday, the Police Department counted 91 homicides, just two less than during the same period last year. But Tribune data — which include expressway killings and fatal shootings by police as well as those ruled justified by police — put homicides at 99, up from 97.
Even by the department's own numbers, shooting incidents have risen to 379 through Wednesday, up slightly from 365 a year earlier.
Friday's announcement of the 81 people arrested — 79 on felony charges — over the past two days was part of an effort by the Police Department to tamp down violence in the city's most dangerous neighborhoods. Nineteen had past weapons charges, and 14 were on parole, according to the officials.
Anthony Riccio, chief of the department's Bureau of Organized Crime, said about 40 suspects were still being sought.
It is a strategy the department used last year on a number of occasions, each time making scores of drug and gun arrests over a few days.