Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to cut down on crime, but not just the kind making Chicago headlines these days.
The City Council's public safety committee this week approved the mayor's plan to increase penalties for petty crimes such as gambling, drinking and urinating in public.
The proposal would add six months jail time and double maximum fines to $1,000 for public drinking and urinating and $400 for gambling.
The violations are categorized as "quality of life crimes" that the mayor's office said can ruin the social fabric of a neighborhood and set the stage for more serious crime. Emanuel points out the crimes also have the highest rate of default in which people tend to blow off fines and avoid court hearings.
The proposal seeks to change all that and reduce other crimes like drug dealing and gang loitering that can stem from nuisance offenses.
Emanuel and Supt. Garry McCarthy announced this week a year-over-year reduction in Chicago homicides. The news was overshadowed, though, by a weekend incident on the Magnificent Mile.
A wilding of teens ran through the neighborhood last Saturday, fighting among themselves and bumping into pedestrians. It caused one alderman to ask for more police downtown.
"Unfortunately, a swift, professional response to these incidents is not enough," Ald. Brendan Reilly said in a message to constituents. "We need increased police presence and visibility in the Central Business District during the warm weather to prevent these events from occurring in the first place."