Chicago gang ordinance under fire despite effort to modify proposal in hopes of combating crime

Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced an ordinance that could allow Chicago to sue gang leaders
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is trying to salvage a proposed gang forfeiture ordinance that has come under fire since day one.

City Council members were presented with some modifications to try and address concerns Friday. However, critics still say the measure will not help reduce crime.

Lightfoot said the city needs every tool in its arsenal to combat the gang violence that is plaguing Chicago's street, which is why she is pushing so hard for an ordinance to seize assets from gang leaders.

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"This ordinance is just wrongheaded, some foolish policy and it's just a distraction," said Craig Futterman, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School.

Futterman is one of 50 members of the legal community sending a letter to the mayor opposing the ordinance. They warn the ordinance would open the city up to costly lawsuits and create further distrust in police.

During a virtual public safety committee meeting Friday, the mayor's team said they have modified the ordinance to put up safeguards to make sure the civil lawsuits only target adult gang leaders and protect the assets of family members.

"I believe there are many facets of this ordinance that can help us with crime in the city of Chicago," said Alderman Anthony Napolitano, 41st Ward.

Still, others remained skeptical.

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"How much in public dollars are we going to be spending and then, what's the benefit," asked Alderwoman Maria Hadden, 49th Ward.

Last fall, ABC7 talked with a community outreach worker in the Back of the Yards neighborhood who remains skeptical because he said the gangs are so fractured there's no so-called "local kingpins" to go after.

"It sounds good on paper and sounds good, you know, that this is what we're doing but I don't think it's gonna make no kind of impact at all," said Oscar Contreras, with the Back of the Yards Network Council.

The mayor disputed that argument Thursday.

"The fact of the matter is, there is a significant profit motive on the part of these gang members to commit the crimes they're committing," Mayor Lightfoot said.

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The city reported Friday that law enforcement in Chicago seized $26 million in cash last year.

Still, critics call the ordinance a bad policy.

"We know that when there are increases in crime, politicians and elected officials like to grab on to easy solutions in order to say that they're doing something," said Ed Yohnka, ACLU of Illinois director of public policy.

Friday's hearing was only informational, with the mayor's office continuing to push for support. But it's not clear if the ordinance will even make it out of committee.
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