After videos showing a “bait truck” full of Nike’s and designer shoes being planted on the south side of one Chicago’s most impoverished neighborhoods went viral, Norfolk Southern Railway, the railroad company who was in cahoots with the CPD, offered an apology last week.
“We sincerely regret that our actions caused further unease, and we don’t plan to use this method in the future,” Herbert Smith, the railroad’s manager of community and legislative relations for the region, wrote in a letter to the Chicago Tribune Friday the 10th.
The video shot and posted on Facebook earlier this month by community activist Charles Mckenzie shows officers arresting a man after he allegedly broke into the “bait truck” in the Englewood neighborhood.
The trailer company claims the truck was apart of a sting called “Operation Trailer Trap” to catch gun trafficking on the community’s Southshore, but when you see that the truck is in the neighborhood of everyday people with kids playing, it comes across as entrapment. Community activist Martin G. Johnson told Vice news in an interview,
“We’ve always suspected the police staged crime in our area but we’ve never been able to prove and document it on film. In the black community we’re overpoliced and we have the most crime. If we have the most police in our community we should have less crime.”
After Mckenzie’s video went viral, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois issued its statement condemning the practice. Director of the ACLU of Illinois’ police practices project. Karen Sheley said,
“Police in Chicago must focus on building trust and better relationships within the communities they serve, not engage in stunts like bait trucks. The Chicago Police Department admits that it can’t solve murders and violent crimes because communities of color don’t trust the Chicago police. These stunts won’t help.”
Mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot, who is also the former head of the Chicago Police Board, blasted the operation as well. She stated,
“Especially after a weekend with seventy shootings and zero arrests, news of this bait truck operation is an appalling display of misplaced priorities and a step backwards on the path to trust and legitimacy.”
The Chicago Police Department claim they were only brought in for arrest and some robbery charges have been dropped, but when you consider this “sting” was on the crux of one of the bloodiest weekends in Chicago this summer — with 70 shot and 12 killed in two days — it makes one wonder where the department’s priorities lie.
Seven months into 2017 and Chicago’s police department have “cleared” fewer than 20 percent of murder investigations involving homicides that had taken place since Jan. 1, adding to a recent dip amid a decades-long trend of unsolved homicides in the city, according to the police data studied by crime analyst Jeff Asher.
Last year, the city tallied 781 murders and only 204 arrests, a 25 percent clearance rate by Asher’s calculations. Yet, somehow the police have time to watch a truck filled with shoes.
These are the very type of issue that continues to place a wedge of mistrust between the police and the residents of Chicago.
It’s why Governor’s Ram Emmanuel’s Cop Academy — a 95 million police and fire training academy in the citie’s West Garfield Park — has received as much backlash and protest, even from the likes of Chance The Rapper.
For some reason or another, the City of Chicago has become the favorite buzzword for politicians, wannabe clothing designers, and movie-makers.
“What about the violence in Chicago?” and the infamous term “Chiraq” has been used more for scapegoatisms and marketing than the actual efforts to combat the issue, and bait trucks like the ones put on the south side of Chicago this month are just micro-examples of the injustices and fuel the frustrations with said campaigns.
As activists continue to fight for equal opportunity for the people of color in Chicago, issues like these are the ones that will be on their minds and at the forefront of the battle.