Chicago is getting tough on soft crime.
After Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed a crackdown on so-called "quality of life" crimes, the City Council agreed Wednesday to throw the book a bit harder at those offenders.
Police say crimes like public urination, prostitution and narcotics use “ruin the social fabric” of a neighborhood, an argument persuasive enough to move aldermen to approve Emanuel’s plan to stiffen punishments for scofflaws.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports violators who fail to pay their initial fines or are no-shows at administrative hearings will face an additional six months of jail time and double the maximum fine — to $1,000 for drinking or urinating on the public way and $400 for gambling.
Per city officials, "quality of life" crimes have the highest rates of default, with as many as 70 percent of Chicago's offenders ignoring administrative hearings and fines, the Associated Press reports.
Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) supported the ordinance, but according to CBS Chicago, warned his colleagues to keep the penalties in scope.
“Are we going to issue municipal warrants?" Fioretti said. "Are they going to go for I-bonds? Are they going to be in prison until x-number of days because they can’t make bond in the first place? I don’t know if the ordinance, in and of itself, was as well thought-out.”
“We had better be careful, careful, careful about what we’re doing,” Fioretti added, according to the Sun-Times.
With 80 homicides in the city so far this year, as of April 10, the focus of petty crime has drawn criticism, summarized in a pointed blog from Slate titled "Body-Strewn Chicago Takes Firm Stance Against Public Urination."
Despite homicide numbers being down compared to the same time last year, by March, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart was already fearing "crisis mode" at the county jail. Overcrowding has been an imminent concern, particularly as the city's uptick in crime historically hits during the summer.