Robert Chiarito, Mark Guarino and
CHICAGO — As voters went to the polls on Tuesday, they overwhelmingly named one issue as their top concern: crime.
After homicides surged to generational highs early in the pandemic, and with property crimes continuing to increase, voters of all backgrounds in Chicago said they felt less safe in their neighborhoods and were looking to the next mayor for solutions.
“To be honest, I can’t walk to the lake alone anymore,” said Janae Colquitt, 35, an emergency room technician who lives on the South Side. “Crime is a big problem.”Ms. Colquitt, a Democrat, voted for Brandon Johnson, a county commissioner, but said that she was not sure the next mayor could fix crime. “I don’t even know what to do,” she said.
Polling from around the first round of balloting suggested that nearly two-thirds of Chicago voters
didn’t feel safe from crime. Both Mr. Johnson and his opponent, Paul Vallas, a former public schools executive, have frequently discussed crime on the campaign trail, though their ideas for addressing it differ widely.
Mr. Johnson, a progressive Democrat, has called for a public safety approach that goes well beyond policing, though he has distanced himself from past support for defunding law enforcement. Mr. Vallas, a more conservative Democrat, has run on a law-and-order platform and called for an expansion of the police force.
Brad Walker, 44, a political independent, said he voted for Mr. Vallas because he believed progressives “have been very weak” on crime. He said thefts of catalytic converters from cars parked on the street have been a growing problem in his area.“The one thing Chicago was known for was its cleanliness and safety,” said Mr. Walker, a corporate recruiter who lives on the North Side.
“But it’s just gotten bad.”Peter Perry, 61, an information technology consultant on the Northwest Side, said he was also starting to see more crime in his generally safe neighborhood.“I’m about who’s not going to be an enabler,” said Mr. Perry, a Republican who voted for Mr. Vallas.
“I think the Democratic Party is an enabling party and I found Paul Vallas to be the least of that.”But other voters questioned whether Mr. Vallas’s plans would actually lower crime. Joseph Klein, 39, a community college teacher, said he saw crime and education as the two biggest issues in the campaign.
But Mr. Klein, a Democrat from the North Side, said he preferred Mr. Johnson’s approach to the issue and voted for him.
“With public safety, this city has a tendency to want to throw more cops at the problem and think that’s going to solve it,” Mr. Klein said, adding that “I think dealing with some root causes is a long road but a better path.”