Rejection of felony shoplifting cases skyrockets under Foxx

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Yesterday, we told you about a sharp rise in shoplifting cases reported to Chicago police since 2016. The increase followed a decision by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to relax enforcement of shoplifting laws after her election in November 2016, we reported.

Foxx has publicly backed away from retail theft prosecutions, saying the county has more pressing issues to handle. Assistant state’s attorneys (ASAs) in her office are told not to pursue felony charges against shoplifting suspects unless the value of the pilfered merchandise exceeds $1,000. Illinois state law sets the threshold for felony theft at $300.

You can see our full report here.

But, we were wrong about something. At the end of our report, we said Foxx’s office had not posted statistical information about her office’s handling of retail theft cases since the end of 2016.

In fact, it has. The information is available on a new “open data” site that Foxx launched last year. Cook County operates a separate data site with state’s attorney information, and it does not have information beyond 2016. 

We apologize for that error. Sincere thanks to Matthew Saniie, who helped launch Foxx’s new site, for his help in finding the relevant data.

New info
According to data on the state’s attorney site, prosecutors under Foxx are rejecting felony shoplifting cases more often than they pursue them. The ratio? About 2-to-1. By comparison, in the year before Foxx was sworn in, prosecutors approved felony retail theft charges by a ratio of roughly 3-to-1.

Police officers who believe an arrestee qualifies for a felony charge must present their case to an ASA for “felony review.” Generally speaking, the ASA will either approve the felony or reject it in favor of a misdemeanor charge.

In 2016, ASAs rejected 26% of Chicago Police Department requests for felony retail theft approval, according to the state’s attorney’s data. The next year, Foxx’s first in office, ASAs rejected 65% of such requests. The rejection rate so far this year is 69%.

The data also shows that Chicago police, understanding Foxx’s policies, are asking for felony retail theft approval far less often than before Foxx took office. CPD requests for felony approval fell 34% during Foxx’s first year.

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