What's behind Chicago's looting spree, and why this one is different

Law enforcement experts, activists and academics are calling looting in and near downtown Chicago early Monday morning criminal acts that have nothing to do with protests against police violence and racism.

"They're not protesters, they're criminals and they're taking advantage of this movement," said David Dial, chair of the criminal justice department at Aurora University and former Naperville police chief. "This is no help at all and detracts from the movement, and these people may not even believe in the movement."

More than 100 people were arrested, at least two people were shot and more than a dozen police officers were injured as scores of stores were looted early Monday along Chicago's Magnificent Mile and at a strip mall in the city's Old Town neighborhood just north of downtown.

Some blamed the unrest on a police shooting in the city's Englewood neighborhood Sunday evening, while others noted the spree was organized on social media sites.

"This act of pillaging, robbing & looting in Chicago was humiliating, embarrassing & morally wrong," the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. said on Twitter. "It must not be associated with our quest for social justice and equality."

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown cast blame on Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx over her record of dropping felony cases during her first term in office and accused her office of not prosecuting looters from earlier civic upheaval this summer.

"Criminals took to the streets with the confidence that there would be no consequences for their actions," Brown said.

Foxx defended her record later in the day.

"Those cases are coming to court now, we are now in the August hearing and status dates," she said, making a point to add that none of the cases were dropped.

Fred Markowitz, a professor of sociology with an emphasis in criminology at Northern Illinois University, said it's unlikely Monday's looters were motivated by a lack of consequences by law enforcement.

"I'm reasonably confident that when it comes to committing crimes, in the minds of the person contemplating that, there is very little, if any, thought to what the chances of getting arrested and having charges dropped are," he said. "I really don't think they're thinking that."

Markowitz said there is very little in common between Monday's looting spree and property damage and looting associated with protests against police violence earlier this summer in Chicago and in cities around the nation.

"What happened yesterday took a different turn and doesn't seem directly related to the police violence protests that we've seen over the summer," he added. "People who commit crimes are impulsive to begin with, and their inability to think things through is sort of what leads them down the road of crime instead of a law abiding path in the first place."

Dial said the organization of the looters and targeting more upscale businesses should concern suburban law enforcement, as well.

"This is an important time for police to have great partners in their communities and get a handle on this before it really gets out of hand," he said.

Several suburban agencies noted they have plans to beef up patrols.

"So far we have not seen any indication that there's a plan for increased violence in the suburban areas," Naperville Police Chief Bob Marshall said. "Obviously, we are prepared if that should change."

• Daily Herald staff writer Marie Wilson and ABC 7 Chicago contributed to this report.

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