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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's plan to sue gang members and seize their property falters amid criticism over crime and civil rights

Gregory Pratt, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

North Side Alderman Harry Osterman, who is Lightfoot’s hand-picked Housing committee chair, simply responded, “Mayor Lightfoot I’ll be a no on the VJO ordinance.”

“Got it,” she texted back.

Several aldermen apparently did not text back to the mayor’s message, including then-Alderman Michael Scott, who faced pressure from West Side civil rights leaders to oppose the ordinance. Others, including Northwest Side Aldermen Ariel Reboyras, Samantha Nugent and Anthony Napolitano expressed their support.

That Lightfoot texted aldermen to request their support reflects the symbolic importance for the mayor, who has been struggling to tamp down violence crime since 2020 ushered in big spikes.

Rogers Park Alderwoman Maria Hadden released a detailed explanation in February of why she opposed the ordinance saying it wouldn’t be worth the manpower hours and could expose the city to liability if officials wrongfully seize property.

“If this ordinance passes, at best, it will make it seem like the mayor and City Council are doing something significant to address crime and give false hope to a frustrated police department and public looking for more tools in combating organized criminal activity,” Hadden wrote. “At worst, this ordinance will encourage two powerful city departments — police and law — to push the limits on respecting civil rights and exhaust valuable time and tax dollars in exchange for negligible financial gain.”

The ordinance languishes as the city continues to deal with high levels of violent crime.

The roughly 800 homicides that occurred last year in Chicago marked the highest death toll from gun violence in the city since the mid-1990s. There were about 4,300 shootings in Chicago last year, a massive jump from 2018 when there were approximately 2,800 people shot.

 

So far this year, homicides were down 16% from the same period in 2021, with Chicago police recording 379 through Sunday compared with 452 last year, official department statistics show. The number of total shooting victims was down nearly 20% over 2021 with 1,969 people shot nonfatally or fatally through Sunday, while 2,455 people were shot at the same time last year, the statistics show.

At news conferences on crime, Lightfoot frequently notes the city has recorded fewer shootings and homicides this year and calls it good progress, though she adds that the city needs to do more.

What she doesn’t mention, however, is that carjackings are up to 947 through Sunday, compared with 879 during the same time period in 2021. Violence has also spiked downtown, raising concerns about the city’s economic engine.

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(Chicago Tribune’s Jeremy Gorner contributed to this story.)

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©2022 Chicago Tribune. Visit chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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