CHICAGO — The city of Chicago plans to implement a new strategy in its fight against crime: suing gang members to seize their assets.
On Monday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced an ordinance that would allow the city to file lawsuits to go after gang members’ assets. The proposal is raising eyebrows as some believe the move will do nothing to decrease crime in Chicago. However, top Chicago Police Department officials countered, saying that they believe the plan will prove to be successful.
Something that is not up for debate: The guns, money and cars – that’s exactly what the city wants to take away from Chicago’s most violent gang members.
Chicago police Supt. David Brown addressed the plan on Monday.
“They’re flashing guns. They’re flashing money. They’re flashing this lifestyle that gets cars and jewelry and it glamorizes this lifestyle,” Brown said.
For years, prosecutors in suburban counties have been doing something similar by employing the Illinois Street Gang Prevention Act to sue gang members for monetary damages.
Lightfoot spoke about the motivation behind the ordinance.
“We have an opportunity to bring these violent street gangs into civil court, out of the shadows, and expose them for what they are and if we’re successful, and I think we will be, take their assets and the profit motive for killing our babies,” Lightfoot said.
Despite critics, police are confident with the approach.
“It will work here in Chicago. It has worked on a federal scale,” First Deputy Supt. Eric Carter said. “In order to really make an impact, you have to take what really matters most to a person.”
Critics say Lightfoot’s plan lacks details about what would happen to the seized possession and who might profit from the proceeds in Chicago. Others say the move is nothing more than a publicity stunt and not a resolution to fight crime.
“Rather than spending time and resources on things that might look good in a press release or in a press conference, we really need to be focusing on proven solutions,” said Angela Inzano, with the ACLU.
The ACLU also worries the new law might be just a new way for police to target the wrong people.
“Most folks can’t afford a lawyer, for example, to represent them in these cases, so they have to go it alone in trying to get their assets back.”