The Sheriff Knows Who the Troublemakers Are. Just Let Him Round Them Up”

Chicago's New Gang Loitering Ordinance

This note examines Chicago’s Gang Congregation Ordinance. By enacting the ordinance, Chicago intended to allow its police force to reduce gang activity in designated “hot spots” by giving police the authority to command gang members to disperse whenever congregated on the streets for the purpose of establishing “control over identifiable areas, to intimidate others from entering those areas, or to conceal illegal activities.”The author has two arguments. First, he argues that the ordinance is unconstitutionally vague because it does not place any limits on the police’s discretion in enforcing the ordinance. Second, even if the ordinance is not unconstitutionally vague, it violates public policy.The note begins by detailing the history of loitering, noting that antiloitering laws and policies were traditionally used to discriminate against “society’s undesirables.” Next, the note changes its focus to the current trend of “order-maintenance policing,” a popular method of maintaining order to eliminate and reduce criminal activity. The author asserts that this policy is the underlying rationale for the ordinance. By not allowing gang members to congregate, the ordinance hopes to reduce instances of violence and other criminal activity. Part II of the note also includes an analysis of Chicago’s earlier gang loitering ordinances.Part III examines and rebuts the arguments of supporters of the loitering ordinance. Finally, the author rebuts the proponents by finding that it allows the police to abuse their discretion by not requiring an overt act for its enforcement. The author also argues that the ordinance is ineffective in reducing gang activity. Instead, the author argues that the gang problem would be best addressed by encouraging communities to form partnerships with the police, investing money in youth programs, and aggressively enforcing current laws.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.