Lightfoot gang asset forfeiture ordinance clears committee hurdle

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plan to use civil lawsuits to seize illegal proceeds — what she calls “blood money” — from Chicago’s most violent street gangs cleared a City Council committee on Thursday against to strenuous objections from civil rights advocates and their allies on the council.

Cook County Public Defender Sharone Mitchell Jr. argued that civilian asset forfeiture is a “ripe for abuse” tool that will make Chicago’s gang violence worse, not better – by “depleting people.” communities” and “further eroding police-community relations”.

On Thursday, the Public Safety Commission approved the mayor’s order by a 10-4 vote.

Progressive council members called the ordinance an ’80s-based strategy’ used to tackle today’s problems and predicted it would cost the city more in money and employee hours. that she could possibly earn in return.

“We…need to put in place serious policies to tackle violent crime and ensure that no one is afraid to call 911 and no one is afraid to walk down the street in front of their house. I’m not convinced that’s it,” Ald said. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), dean of the Socialist Caucus.

“We’re told, ‘It’s a tool. … We wish we could use it. But all the evidence shows it’s an ineffective tool, one that won’t make our communities safer, won’t prevent crime and, at worst, puts our city in a very difficult position, facing the possibility of lawsuits based on violation of fundamental constitutional rights. ”

Aldus. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd) said she too was “very concerned that this will end up hurting the very communities they claim it will help”. She pointed to the Chicago Police Department’s error-filled gang database that has yet to be officially replaced.

“We are looking at another gang database. And we’re going to use that one to work on that. How do we make sure we don’t make the same mistakes we’ve made in the past – hurting communities that are already hurting? said Rodriguez Sanchez.

Deputy Police Chief Ernest Cato said the new gang database was designed to prevent “the lawsuits that have been brought against us”.

“We checked it several times. We continue to check it. We’ve blocked information to the point where we only have a little over 2,000 on this list at the moment,” Cato said.

“The current focus is to ensure that no person of color – or person – suffers any type of harm from a database. … It’s a very rigorous process. … With the new database that you’re talking about, it’s going to be a verification process indefinitely.

Aldus. Jason Ervin (28th), whose West Side neighborhood includes the gang and the drug-ridden Harrison District, pushed back against those who claim civil lawsuits against suspected gang leaders will cost more than they could possibly win .

“We can’t look at this as if we’re going to spend $5,000 to get $2,000. We have to look at what’s in the best interest of the community. How can we have additional tools to address violence and criminal activities?” Ervine said.

“I’m in the heart of the 11th Ward, on the West Side of Chicago. Crime is a major problem here. What our community is saying is, “We want tools that are going to help reduce the activity that’s happening on the streets.” People’s quality of life is impacted.

Lightfoot honed the language to target gang leaders and their organisations, not rank and file members, amid fears innocent relatives could be caught in the seizures network.

People facing property loss should also be notified by mail of the case against them and empowered to protect their property from seizure by convincing a judge that they were in the dark.

The company’s assistant attorney, Steve Kane, said the order would be used sparingly, in part because each lawsuit it takes would cost the city $100,000 and 1,500 hours.

“I wouldn’t anticipate more than a few cases in the first year,” Kane said, acknowledging the city would only file cases that it’s relatively certain it will win.

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