Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a new rule that would empower the city to file lawsuits and pursue the assets of gang members and leaders. NBC Chicago reports, the ordinance was introduced during a City Council meeting and could allow fines of up to $10,000 for each offense. It also gives the ability for courts to seize “any property that is directly or indirectly used or intended for use in any manner to facilitate street gang-related activity.”
The bill was supposed to go to the council’s Public Safety Committee. However, due to a procedural motion by Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez, it will instead go to the Rule Committee, potentially delaying its adoption. According to Lightfoot, this means that the ordinance must pass out of the Rule Committee by Friday, after which the Public Safety Committee can schedule a vote. Lightfoot claims that the ordinance would be used to target gang leaders rather than members and deprive gangs of cash.
Some activist organizations are critical of the proposal and concerned that it would unfairly punish community members who are mistakenly classified as gang members. Colleen Connell, executive director of the ACLU of Illinois, said, “It is astonishing to hear the Mayor and law enforcement officials pretend that this power would be used solely in a targeted fashion against gang members. The City had to scrap [the] use of its flawed gang database because it included thousands of people who had no history of gang membership or criminal involvement. It is hard to see how their capacity about who to target has improved since that time.”
Prosecutors in suburban counties have been suing gang members for monetary damages for years under the Illinois Street Gang Prevention Act. However, according to attorney John Mauck, hundreds of these claims filed over the years have failed to recover any monetary damages from gang members. Mauck said, “They’ll sue a bunch of gang members and get some judgments and say, ‘Look what we’ve done,’ but it won’t accomplish anything. It’s for show.”
As the number of shootings and killings in Chicago continues to rise, Lightfoot believes the city must do everything it can to combat the gangs responsible for so many deaths and injuries. She stated, “we have an opportunity to bring these violent street gangs into civil court, out of the shadows, expose them for what they are. And if we’re successful, and I think we will be, take their assets and the profit motive for killing our babies.”
The announcement comes days after news broke that more children have been shot in Chicago than have died from Covid-19 in the entire country. A report from Fox News revealed that Covid-19 had claimed the lives of 214 young people aged 17 or under in the country so far this year. In comparison, authorities in Chicago informed FOX 32 Chicago that 261 children had been shot in the city, killing 41 of them.