CHICAGO (STMW) — Drinking, gambling and urinating on the public way are crimes that, Chicago Police contend, can “ruin the social fabric” of a neighborhood and set the stage for more serious crimes, including prostitution, gang loitering and narcotics sales.
They’re also crimes with the highest rates of default, with 50 to 70 percent of all offenders ignoring the fine and blowing off administrative hearings.
That could change, thanks to a mayoral crackdown advanced Thursday.
The City Council’s Public Safety committee approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to add six months of jail time and double the maximum fine — to $1,000 for drinking and urinating on the public way and $400 for gambling — for violators who fail to pay their initial fines and are no-shows at administrative hearings.
Similar penalties are already in place for offenders who ignore their marijuana tickets.
Deputy chief of patrol Steve Georgas told aldermen it’s high time the city gets tough on violations that, if left unpunished, can have a “profound and cumulative effect” and “ruin the social fabric” of a neighborhood.
“For these three offenses, the rates of default have been in the 50 to 70 percent range. . . . Residents forced to observe these behaviors eventually become numb to these violations of decency and unacceptable behavior. As a result, the scale of acceptable behavior gradually falls away,” Georgas said.
“This sort of unchecked behavior will then lead to further disorder and can ultimately lead to other crimes such as solicitation, narcotics sales and gang loitering. That is why it is imperative that we enforce these quality of life issues that are being ignored, so offenders realize their behavior will not be accepted.”
Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) said the ordinance could be a pivotal tool in a portion of his North Side ward struggling to control gang violence, loitering and public drinking.
“I met the new foot patrolman the other day who told me there’s an individual who just got out of jail — hard-core gang member with a long rap sheet. To celebrate getting out of jail, he did two of the three things cited here,” Osterman said, refusing to say which ones.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)