Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday introduced a new ordinance that would allow the city to file lawsuits and go after gang members' and leaders' assets.
The ordinance, which the Chicago Tribune reports could allow fines as high as $10,000 for each offense and give courts the ability to seize “any property that is directly or indirectly used or intended for use in any manner to facilitate street gang-related activity," was introduced during a City Council meeting.
The measure was expected to move to the council's Public Safety Committee, but instead, thanks to a procedural move by Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez, it will instead head to the Rule Committee, which could delay its potential approval.
The move means that the ordinance will have to advance out of the committee Friday, according to Lightfoot, and after that a vote can be scheduled by the Public Safety Committee.
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Lightfoot, in reacting to the decision to shelve the measure, says that the ordinance will be used to target gang leaders, not members, and will attempt to deprive gangs of funds.
The measure has sparked concern from some activist groups who say it could unfairly target community members mislabeled as having gang affiliations.
"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," Colleen Connell, executive direct of the ACLU of Illinois said in a statement. "The City had to scrap use of its flawed gang database because it included thousands people without 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 for years been doing something similar by employing the Illinois Street Gang Prevention Act to sue gang members for monetary damages.
But attorney John Mauck, who successfully defended four men in such a lawsuit in Kane County, says that most of the hundreds of such lawsuits over the years have failed to collect any monetary damages from gang members.
But as the number of shootings and homicides in Chicago continues to surge, Lightfoot says the city must do everything it can to battle the gangs that have killed and wounded so many.
“We have an opportunity to bring these violent street gangs into civil court, out of the shadows, expose them for what they are," she said. “And if we’re successful, and I think we will be, take their assets and the profit motive for killing our babies.”