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Soft-on-crime policies took my brother and destroyed Chicago, the town I love

Fox News commentator and political analyst Gianno Cald-well will testify before the House Judiciary Committee in Chicago Tuesday on how progressive “soft-on-crime” policies are turning the city into an “active warzone” — after the South Side native lost his baby brother in June 2022 to gun violence. Here is Caldwell’s opening statement:

Good morning.

Thank you, Chairman Jordan, for the opportunity to speak before you all today. Also a special thank you to Congressman Burgess Owens who has worked behind the scenes with his staff to ensure that I could be before this body. 

My name is Gianno Caldwell. I was born and raised on South Side of Chicago. I got involved in public service at the age of 14 working for my local alderman because I actually believed my community in Chatham could be saved from violence, crime, and drugs. I eventually moved — with the same goals — to Washington, DC, and became a political consultant and a national media analyst and TV personality.

Before I begin, I truly wish that it was not my place to be here today . . . but I believe that I have no choice. No choice because of the countless people in my hometown — including my own family — who are innocent victims of murder and violent crime — those who are shot, robbed, carjacked or even worse — those who’ve had multiple people in their family murdered in Chicago; these voices scream out for justice. 

Leaving in droves

Many of the elected officials here in Chicago have ignored these voices and it has come at a great price for the people of the city. Not just in blood but also treasure and opportunity as multibillion-dollar businesses like Ken Griffin’s Citadel — which brought millions in tax revenue — have justifiably fled our city in droves because crime has reached state-of-emergency levels. 

Portrait of Portrait of Gianno Caldwell
Jeffery Salter for NY Post

We know this has happened in part due to the policies of the Cook County Prosecutor, Chicago’s most recent Mayors, the Governor, and other politicians throughout the state of Illinois. These officials have recklessly ignored the people they were elected to represent and as a result, bodies — mostly, Black bodies — are littered throughout the streets of Chicago. 

I unfortunately understand the pain of the thousands of victims whose families have been destroyed.

On June 24th of last year, I received the call that my innocent teenage baby brother, Christian, had been murdered. Shot down in the street by a stranger when a group of men stepped out of a black SUV and fired into the crowd on 11400 South Vincennes street. 

The police have repeatedly said my brother was not the target — that he just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. 

But, in Chicago, being at the wrong place at the wrong time could be sleeping in your bed and a bullet comes through your window OR in the back seat of a car at a McDonald’s drive through, as 7-year-old Jaslyn Adams was murdered.

Living in Chicago should not come with a death sentence, but it does for too many Chicagoans. My brother Christian had the potential to do well in life. I still remember the day when he begged me to take him on a college tour out of state when he was just 16 years old, and we went, but Christian will never have the opportunity to go to college. Or to get married, have kids, build his career. 

gianno caldwell
Caldwell found out his teenager brother, Christian, was shot by a stranger in 2022.

And so many other youth in Chicago have experienced this same reality. 

Lost potential

I refuse to capitulate to the idea that Christian has just become another Chicago statistic. One of the hundreds of homicides in Chicago in 2022. There’s an abundance of potential in Chicago among our youth and old alike. 

Unfortunately, much of that potential lays in graveyards across our city. Chicago recently had the highest number of homicides in more than a quarter of a century. As of today, 2023 is on pace to join the previous two as one of the most violent years in our city’s history.

From the moment I learned my brother Christian was murdered, I felt defeated. Since my younger sister, Mia, called me on June 24th screaming into the phone: “Christian is gone,” I have felt a giant void in my heart. Never had I made room for the thought or possibility that someone so close to my life would be stolen so violently. 

City of Miami Mayor and Republican Party Presidential Candidate Francis Suarez and Gianno Caldwell
Getty Images for SiriusXM

But, that’s naïve I suppose. 

On the same day my brother was killed, a five-month-old girl by the name of Cecilia, was murdered in a drive-by shooting while sitting in the back seat of a car with her family.

Chicago is an active warzone. This is not hyperbole. It’s the people who are afraid to leave their homes; to walk to or from work. To walk to school. Would this same fear, would these random murders, be as accepted in the suburbs? Absolutely not!

The soft-on-crime policies — 

  • Prosecutors who refuse to prosecute
  • Decriminalization of offenses
  • Laws like the Safe T Act (which ends cash bail and allows criminals back on the streets to commit more crime)
  • And, the “no-chase” policy which constrains the police from doing their jobs

— Policies pushed by the Cook County prosecutor, and the current and previous mayors, have proved to be a death sentence for the people of Chicago. What started off as, perhaps, a noble cause of criminal justice reform has become justice for . . . the criminal. 

It is our police who have been handcuffed . . . as criminals no longer live in fear of arrest or prosecution. When you can steal at will, when you can drive away from the police during a traffic stop — the streets become lawless. Murder, as many like my family know too well, is close behind.

Racial chasm

The elected officials here have systematically endangered the lives of all Chicagoans, but especially those of color — the marginalized who they “claim” to care most about. Most of those shot and murdered in Chicago are Black men. 

According to the Chicago Police Department, African-Americans — including my brother — made up 80% of the murder victims in Chicago in 2022. For the record, Black people make up only 29% of the city’s population.

We. Need. Help.

Congress MUST use the power of the purse and place restrictions on the funding received by local governments to ensure elected officials are focused on what should be the #1 priority — the protection of its citizens.

caldwell family

Federal dollars are used effectively for natural disasters from storms to pandemics. It’s time to use the same resources for manmade disasters.

  • Provide funding for local law enforcement agencies to help local agencies hire and train more officers with the latest crime-fighting techniques.
  • Support programs that address the root causes of crime: Job training, education, and other social services to people in at-risk communities.
  • As small as it sounds, the federal government can help provide some special funding for funerals as innocent people being killed are those who need such help the most. Let the world know how many are being buried in our communities!
  • Pass legislation that supports community policing, which emphasizes building much-needed relationships between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.
  • The First Step Act, a law I lobbied for personally, provides funding for programs that help people who have been incarcerated successfully reintegrate into society. Congress could increase funding for the Second Chance Act to help reduce recidivism rates.

FBI help

Finally, congress and the federal government should employ the full use of the FBI to help clear murder cases in our cities.

When I first spoke to the detective handling my brother’s case, he told me he “had other priorities and more cases had come in since my brother was murdered.” (I’ve since been told Chicago, alone, needs 2,000 new detectives to handle the current caseload.) 

It wasn’t until I angrily went on Chicago and national media that the detective took me seriously. I had access to a platform most families of victims do not. Even then, it didn’t last long.

 Soon, the police weren’t returning my calls again and they haven’t yet “solved” — even though the murder weapon was found on someone arrested weeks later — my brother’s murder. 

Ultimately, the Chicago Police Department have failed my family and countless others. Reforms within the Chicago Police Department are needed. I’ve had to go through hell in an attempt to get justice for my brother. I am now working directly with the FBI Chicago field office. How many of the hundreds murdered have that same opportunity?

My love for Chicago is infinite and unconditional. It will always be home to me. I first got involved in public service when I was just 14, volunteering for my local alderman every day after school like it was a job. A decision which set me on the path to public service to help the city I loved so much.

gianno caldwell
Jeffery Salter for NY Post

But no family should ever go through what mine has gone through this past year. No family should get that call. 

Kill zones

We have more resources than any nation in history. Why aren’t we using these for those that need them the most? Why are we allowing our cities — from Chicago to New York to Los Angeles, to Baltimore to Oakland to Philadelphia to San Francisco — to remain dangerous kill zones? While migrants are traveling across the world to Chicago for its sanctuary city status — there continues to be no sanctuary and no peace for the very people who have called Chicago home their entire lives. 

Today I am here to Demand Justice and accountability not just for my baby brother but the thousands of other Chicagoans whom we may NEVER know their names. 

I implore you to exercise your full powers and resources. Christian’s death is a senseless loss but it doesn’t have to be meaningless. Please make him one of our last victims. And help us save the people of Chicago. 

Thank you.