Chicago cops restrict access to several blocks known for drug sales on West Side

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CHICAGO — Chicago police have started checking the identities of people attempting to enter four blocks on the city’s West Side to discourage gatherings of gang members, authorities said Tuesday.

Under the order issued by Harrison District Cmdr. Darrell Spencer, only people who live on the blocks being targeted would be able to enter them. Two men were shot and wounded Saturday on one of the streets being blocked by police vehicles.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the order was issued to disrupt the open-air drug markets and the violence on the blocks. However, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that in other areas of the police district, drug dealers can be seen openly selling to customers as police cars drove past.

There has been some reticence among officers to follow Spencer’s order. Some officers said they are concerned the directive was not constitutional, the Sun-Times reported.

American Civil Liberties Union spokesman Ed Yohnka said Spencer’s order raises constitutional questions because it limits movement and requires people to show papers to travel in the city.

“If the (Chicago Police Department) is addressing criminal behavior, there are other ways to address those concerns without asking every person (to) show an identification card to enter their own block,” Yohnka added. “Our current public health crisis should not be used as cover for heavy-handed policing targeting communities of color.”

In a statement, Guglielmi said 89 dispersal orders had been issued on Monday alone for the four blocks being targeted. He said police have closed the streets as part of a strategic and public health effort to disrupt open-air drug sales and prevent large gatherings of people.

“During this time, only residents who reside on the streets are permitted to enter while others are directed to alternative routes,” Guglielmi said.

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