Small fee could empower city to fight crime

By Editorial Board

Alderman George Cardenas (12th Ward) proposed on Sept. 20 a “safety and security fee,” to be paid by residents to hire more police officers. A fee of up to $5 a month would be added to Chicagoans’ monthly energy bill, which may be what the city needs to fight its growing crime problem, as long as it isn’t applied to people who are already struggling.

Cardenas expects the fee to raise $70 million, which he says is enough to hire 700 new police officers. Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy hoped to add approximately 500 new officers this year, but only 150 have been hired thus far, according to The Chicago Tribune.

The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police supports the security fee because it believes the city desperately needs more police officers. According to Mike Shields, president of the FOP, the hiring of new officers has not kept pace with the rate of retiring officers. During the last two years, 1,100 police officers have retired, according to Shields. When the mayor says he is hiring more officers, he is actually just trying to keep up with the number the city is losing.

Five dollars per month is no small fee for low-income families and residents. Chicago’s already high taxes and rising poverty rate need to be considered if a fee like this is to be implemented. Adding more burdens to the budgets of low-income Chicago residents will create problems of its own.  While a safety and security fee is a good idea right now, there are people who may not have enough disposable income to pay it.

But for residents who have the money, $5 a month is a small price to pay to turn the tide in the city’s fight against crime. This has been a dangerous year to live in Chicago, so we all should chip in what we can.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel responded negatively to the proposal on Sept. 25, saying that his upcoming budget will actually cut taxes and fees. It is clear the mayor is in denial. The new police officers he hired barely keep up with rising homicide rates. A small fee increase—hopefully temporary—would give the city the resources it needs to protect its residents.

Emanuel’s budget address is in early October, and he has already promised not to raise taxes. He’d better have some big plans because Chicago has a big crime problem.  The city’s Fraternal Order of Police and aldermen are asking for more police officers, and they need more money to do it. A small fee added to our energy bills isn’t too much to ask as long as consideration is made for low-income households.