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HomeOpinionOpinion: Headlines and Hiding Places – Reporting on Chicagoland Crime

Opinion: Headlines and Hiding Places – Reporting on Chicagoland Crime



By John F. Di Leo, Opinion Contributor

It was a cold Wednesday evening in late January, and Curtis Lyons of Maywood, age 37, was allegedly in the nearby west suburban Chicagoland town of Villa Park to sell drugs, with $7000 in cash and a supply of controlled substances at hand, along with a 9mm Glock that had been modified to allow automatic fire.

For reasons not yet clear, during his Wednesday visit to Villa Park, he allegedly sprayed the neighborhood with bullets, firing at least 30 shots in a matter of seconds, at least one round entering a residence.

Curtis Lyons has a rap sheet.

A quick review of his record, available to any reporter, shows that he’s been arrested and convicted, and done time in Illinois prisons, for multiple crimes over the past 20 years, including armed robbery, unlawful use of a weapon, possessing and selling drugs and more.

Nobody is reported to have been hit by this spray of machine gun fire on Wednesday night (though it might be too soon to be certain; a victim killed in his or her home might not be discovered for days yet), but of course he was arrested anyway, for everything else listed above. And because of the machine gun aspect, this was an unusual enough crime to make the news.

Bond was denied, so he will remain locked up until trial; it seems that a crime this severe – and this reckless – can overcome even the criminal-protection efforts of Illinois’ ghastly new SAFE-T Act. Perhaps our hero forgot that he was in DuPage County, not Cook, the much more lenient county next door.

It is likely that this character, at least, will not now be free for some time.

What were the headlines?

WBBM reports: “Man sprayed machine gun in Villa Park neighborhood.” Fox 32 reported “Bond Denied for Cook County man charged with firing machine gun in Villa Park.” And the Daily Herald’s headline read “Police: Man fired a machine gun more than 30 times in Villa Park neighborhood.”

What message do these headlines send? That the suburbs are no longer safe. That there are machine guns out there. That it’s a dangerous time. And since bond was denied, it sends a message that the criminal justice system is doing its job, keeping him in custody, for now.

There’s nothing exactly “untrue” about the messages these headlines send. But is that the whole story? If the headlines were written differently, they might tell a different tale.

Illinois’ brand new SAFE-T Act removes a great deal of flexibility from the state’s criminal justice system, banning counties from holding most criminals before trial. With the new “no cash bail” rules in place, almost all criminals are to be released into their own recognizance from now on; surely we can trust them to show up at trial, right?

The state’s Republicans warn that such a policy is reckless. The state’s Democrats want everyone to believe it’s not that bad.

But in fact, it’s likely only the enormity of this man’s crimes – a combination of drug sales, reckless shooting into a neighborhood, and the fact that the weapon was transformed into an illegal automatic, a current blown-up focus of the Biden regime, that enabled DuPage County to keep him locked up. Were that weapon not retrofitted to illegally fire on “auto,” he’d probably be out free, courtesy of Pritzker’s Safe-T Act. But they don’t want you to know that.

What else might the headlines have said? “Repeat offender caught shooting up Villa Park during drug sale,” perhaps? “Drug dealer and robber caught firing illegal automatic weapon in Villa Park,” perhaps?

A century ago, when the press was more comfortable editorializing on the side of the law-abiding citizen, the headline for this crime might have read, “Repeat offender shoots up Villa Park neighborhood, reviving the question of whether Illinois sentencing practices keep criminals locked up long enough.”

They wouldn’t write such a headline today, but perhaps they should.

What the Democrats don’t want you to know – and therefore, by extension, what their allies in the media don’t want you to know – is that virtually all crime is committed by repeat offenders. Virtually nobody sells crack just once, mugs an old lady in an alley just once, rapes a pedestrian in a park just once, carjacks an SUV just once.
The people who do these things do so routinely. Once they get away with it once, they continue, dozens or hundreds of times, until the criminal justice system locks them away.

For this reason, throughout human history, criminal justice systems have always taken that into account when establishing sentencing guidelines. Once a criminal is convicted, you don’t just lock him up “a commensurate time to make up for the $50 he stole from the old lady’s purse, or for the $500 worth of crack he stole.” No, you lock him up for years, so that he won’t commit the hundreds of additional crimes he’d commit if you allow him to remain free.

The biggest lie that the Left has succeeded in spreading over the past half century is arguably this: that sentencing should be appropriate for the one crime for which the criminal was convicted, rather than be appropriate for the goal of protecting future victims from his continued commission of such crimes.

How often do news headlines include the words “repeat offender?” How often do the headlines mention the fact that the criminal was only on the streets because of liberal early-release or work furlough programs, or a generous governor’s prison-emptying projects, or an early parole due to a parole board keeping hearings secret from the convict’s past victims’ families?

The mainstream media holds enormous power. News bias isn’t just about how they write the story; it’s about which stories they cover, which angles they pursue, which information they highlight in the headline.

If the mainstream media news reporting were honest, the words “repeat offender” would appear in almost every report of almost every kind of crime in America’s big cities.
And that would change the way that the electorate feels about minimum sentencing standards, and judicial flexibility, and the powers of governors and parole boards.

Can’t have that, can we?

Copyright 2023 John F. Di Leo

John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based trade compliance trainer and transporttion manager, writer, and actor. A one-time county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, and former president of the Ethnic American Council, he has been writing regularly for Illinois Review since 2009.

A collection of John’s Illinois Review articles about vote fraud, The Tales of Little Pavel, and his 2021 political satires about current events, Evening Soup with Basement Joe, Volumes One and Two, are available, in either paperback or eBook, only on Amazon.

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