Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Friday, February 23

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The Mechanics

Crime Thu Oct 22 2015

Three Female Public Officials Going Down the Corruption Escalator

Three women public officials in Chicago in the past 10 days took rides on the corruption escalator. It's a "down" escalator, from scandal headlines, to indictment, to conviction, to prison, and then emerging at the bottom with a ruined careers and reputations in tatters.

It's a familiar ride taken by many Chicago elected and appointed officials. But this week, the headliners were all women.

Former Alderman Sandi Jackson, Chicago Public School CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Dorothy Brown, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk are all on different stages of the corruption ride, but they are all headed in the same direction.

Continue reading this entry »

Thomas J. Gradel / Comments (1)

Neighborhoods Wed Jul 01 2015

Chiraq vs. the Good in Englewood?

Good in Englewood Twitter stream
Screenshot of the @GoodInEnglewood Twitter account

Chiraq, Spike Lee's new movie filming this summer on the city's South Side, has stirred the contentious pot of Chicago public opinion into a boil over the name of the film. Aldermen William Burns (4th) and David Moore (17th) have spoken out against the title and what they see as a negative branding effect it could have on their communities. Burns has proposed legislation in City Council that would urge Illinois lawmakers to deny any tax credits to the production of the film. Even Mayor Rahm Emanuel has spoken out against the film.

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Jennifer Prohov

Federal Government Wed Jun 10 2015

Hastert's Troubles Mount

Dennis Hastert, a former Republican Congressman from Illinois and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, appeared in federal court on Tuesday to enter pleas of not guilty to charges that he violated banking laws and lied to the FBI in an effort to conceal his alleged sexual abuse of a high school student some 45 years ago.

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Thomas J. Gradel

Op-Ed Wed Jul 16 2014

Racial Inequality is the Root of Violent Crime in Chicago

Christian Science Monitor/Paul Beaty

Over this Fourth of July weekend in Chicago, 84 people were shot and 16 killed. Over 1,000 people have been shot in the city since the beginning of the year, and almost all of them were black and Latino men under the age of 35. Shedding light on these numbers is important, but numbers on their own are not enough. A shallow focus on statistics and short-term solutions consistently dominates media coverage of violence in Chicago. This insubstantial, fleeting reportage ignores the deeper societal inequalities that continue to spur violence in the city's most marginalized black neighborhoods.

The Chicago neighborhoods that have the highest violent crime rates are the same that have the greatest concentrations of poverty, incarceration, unemployment and failing schools. And while violent crime has fallen in Chicago (as in all major American cities) since the 1990s, Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson found that the same neighborhoods have remained the most violent.

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Rachel Anspach / Comments (7)

Neighborhoods Wed Jan 29 2014

Public Citizen: Neighborhood Watch 2.0

Public Citizen is a series about how the people of Chicago connect with their government and their city. Get involved: leave your two cents on our next story about the return of EveryBlock, leave a comment or tweet thoughts to @miketewing.

His neighbors were just robbed. Again. Steve Niketopoulos asked how they were keeping up. They felt less safe in their home, they said. Talking with the police afterwards made them feel even more confused and guilty. Like it was their fault.

Another neighbor told him she came home one day to find a man hanging halfway out of a window. When the police came, they asked why the windows didn't have bars them. She felt guilty for being unprepared.

Steve had heard enough.

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Mike Ewing / Comments (1)

Chicago Thu Jan 23 2014 Streamlines Expungement Process for Chicago Adults and Youth

expungeio.jpgThousands of people in Cook County are eligible to get their criminal records expunged, but only a handful actually do.

Many adults with criminal records as youth are unfamiliar with how the expungement process works, according to Daniel O'Neil, executive director of Smart Chicago Collaborative. This matters -- these adults have difficulty finding jobs and gaining access to school or housing, for instance.

Mikva Challenge and Smart Chicago Collaborative think these adults deserve a second chance. That's where comes in. The web app, created in partnership between the two organizations, launched on January 7 and as of last Friday, 14 users were found eligible for expungement.

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Nenad Tadic

Op-Ed Wed Oct 02 2013

Chicago's Forgotten End Up at Cook County Jail

Cook County Jail has drawn attention to itself lately for collecting large amounts of Chicago's mentally ill, so much so that it has become the largest mental health facility in Illinois.

The story is particularly inflammatory given Gov. Pat Quinn's corresponding funding cuts to Illinois mental health facilities, and the closing of six Chicago mental health clinics last year.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has been vocal in condemning the incarceration of Chicago's mentally ill, who he says are regularly falling through the cracks of an at-capacity (and underfunded) prison system despite his best efforts to provide therapy and medication to those in need.

"This is a population that people don't care about and so as a result of that there are not the resources out there to care for them," Dart said in an interview on CBS 60 Minutes Sunday night.

In saying this, Dart touches on an even larger issue with the U.S. criminal justice system -- it has become a place for unwanted members of society to collect. Of course, those suffering from mental illnesses are but one group who, as we regretfully phrase it, "fall through the cracks." One could easily add to this list the poor, those with drug or alcohol addictions and a heartily disproportionate number of African-Americans and Hispanics.

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Taylor Long

Crime Tue Sep 17 2013

Funding Interrupted for Violence Prevention in Chicago

Violence. It plagues our television during the 5 o'clock news. It deters suburbanites from ever adventuring to the Windy City. Headlines have tried to cling to the "shock factor" and compare Chicago to Afghanistan and Iraq, with Chicago ranking worse than both war-stricken countries when it comes to murders. It is no secret that Chicago is facing an epidemic of gun violence, gangs, and homicides.

So often we turn to law enforcement for answers. Rarely do we consider non-governmental agencies partners in fighting crime to the extent it needs to be fought in Chicago neighborhoods confronted with homicide. CeaseFire, more recently known as Cure Violence, has been a partner in ending violence since 1995 (1990 in Chicago) under the foundation of Dr. Gary Slutkin, an epidemiologist who believes that violence should be treated as an epidemic using the same strategies and methods as disease control. The organization's website reads that "detection and interruption, identifying individuals involved in transmission, and changing social norms of the communities where it occurs" are critical in preventing and reducing violent crime. A key component of the strategy involves recruiting members of the community in which violence is occurring and even sometimes individuals who were once gang members. They identify potentially lethal situations, identify conflict, and utilize mediation techniques to prevent violence.

Research [PDF] has show that CeaseFire works to reduce gang involvement and gang-related homicides. But critiques of this research highlights the lack of other factors potentially contributing to a reduction in violence. These can include policing tactics such as new initiatives in communities with heavy gang activity, presence of POD cameras, and Hot Spot policing. Additionally, the increased number of incarcerated individuals and the overall reduction inc crime across the nation have been used to explain reductions in violent crime in Chicago neighborhoods. Since the national trend of decreased violent crime starting in the 1990s, every criminal justice agency in Chicago has attempted to take credit for the why and the how.

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Darci Jenkins

Crime Thu Aug 22 2013

Gun Violence Prevention Advocates Rally for Congressional Action


Demonstrators gathered Wednesday evening at Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago to rally for gun violence prevention. The event, which was coordinated by volunteers with Organizing for Action, featured activists and community members who spoke out about the harmful consequences of gun violence and called on Congress to take action and support commonsense gun violence prevention legislation.

Here in Illinois, Governor Pat Quinn recently passed a law requiring background checks on all gun sales. "While this is a great step in reducing guns entering the illegal market, we need a strong national law to keep guns out of the hands of criminals," said Mark Walsh, campaign director for the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.

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Emily Brosious

Op-Ed Tue Aug 20 2013

The New "Safe" for the Chicago Public Schools

Demolition crews arrived at Whittier Elementary on Friday night to demolish the field house, also known as La Casita. The Chicago Public Schools made the decision to demolish the field house based on safety concerns. The CPS was so concerned about the safety of school children they skipped applying for a demolition permit and obtained an administrative order from the Department of Buildings, allowing for an emergency demolition.

Meanwhile, two shootings have occurred in the past month along "Safe Passage" routes. The most recent one occurred on Aug. 19 at Sheridan and Wilson, injuring five people. If these are supposed to ensure the safety of CPS students as they walk to welcoming schools on Aug. 26, how can people be confident students will be safe if shootings occur along the routes?

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Monica Reida

Local Government Tue Jul 16 2013

Symbol or Model? Evanston's "'Assault Weapons' Ban"

The Evanston City Council last night, July 15, unanimously passed an "assault weapons ban" ("AWB") ordinance to the cheers of many in the council chambers, and -- a rarity -- the approval of even many gun owners. The ordinance passed under a perceived municipal rush to pass something, anything, under the recently-enacted Illinois concealed-carry ordinance which purported to strip home rule municipalities of their power to regulate so-called "assault weapons" (undefined in the state law) after 10 days of the state bill's enactment. For those interested, the pre-emption section, now codified at 430 ILCS 65/13.1, begins on p. 122 of the 168-page bill.

The Council in liberal Evanston, on the North Shore where there is no political downside in supporting any gun control measure and no political upside to opposing any, previously considered a version of the ordinance at its July 8 meeting but directed staff to address complaints that the ordinance was over-reaching and, like most such legislation, mainly banned firearms on the grounds of cosmetic or user-preference features (such as thumbhole stocks) rather than lethality. The version of the ordinance ultimately passed dealt with the issue by eliminating all of those cosmetic features as a grounds for banning a rifle, and using magazine size (15 bullets or more) as the definer -- as arbitrary limits go, one that has broader acceptance. For handguns, the definitions were left largely intact, mainly banning features that allow a handgun to be transformed into a short "long gun." For shotguns, again removable magazines remained as the main differentiater.

Depending how you look at it, the maneuver was darned clever, or pointless, or both. However, the end result may be that Evanston may avoid costly litigation, an outcome devoutly to be wished.

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Jeff Smith / Comments (2)

Chicago Thu Jun 27 2013

The Problem With How We View Sports "Celebrations"

Hundreds of drunks in Wrigleyville crowded the streets more than usual on Monday night to celebrate the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup. Fireworks were shot off in Wrigleyville and then the Chicago police pushed the crowds south, where windows were smashed in Lake View and Lincoln Park.

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Monica Reida / Comments (2)

Crime Thu Mar 28 2013

Political Celebrity is not Enough to Combat Violence

The First Lady of the United States is returning home to focus on the issue of escalating violence. Michelle Obama is addressing community leaders at a luncheon April 10, titled, "Working Together to Address Youth Violence in Chicago," hosted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Everyone loves it when first lady comes to town; it reminds us that we can produce greatness in the midst of raging chaos.

Her speech is bound to be encouraging but will civic organizations and business participation help alleviate the socioeconomic factors in street violence? It's no longer about sunny appearances, glitzy fundraisers and networking opportunities but initiatives and changes that will transform even the most broken.

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Sydney Corryn

Chicago Tue Feb 12 2013

City Mouse, Country Mouse: Geopolitics and Guns

The argument over gun control is not, as some want to frame it, primarily partisan, let alone a battle between those opposed to violence and those OK with it. It's as much a geographic and cultural divide as anything else. Understanding the different perspectives stemming from the very different homicide rates in very different areas is key to overcoming simplistic sloganeering or unfounded assumptions, and is critical to basing policy on evidence. Consider Chicago and Iowa, for starters.

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Jeff Smith

Veterans Fri Feb 01 2013

Sad, Sobering Statistics on Veteran Suicide

This is some news that ought to be bigger. It is sad and it is sobering. It also gives insight into how national stories are created or ignored, and popular opinion manipulated.

A new Veterans Administration study estimates that 22 veterans are committing suicide each day. This represents an increase from previous study, when the VA was estimating 18 suicides per day among the vet population they serve.

What this also means is that, this month, the number of veterans who take their own lives will eclipse all the homicides in Chicago in an entire year. What this means is that the number of veterans who take their own lives will be larger than the number of men and women killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past entire decade of war. And that, during the next decade, America will lose more lives to veteran suicide than US forces lost in the Vietnam War.

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Jeff Smith / Comments (1)

Crime Thu Jan 03 2013

Our Kids Are Safe: Schools and Guns

handgun on bricks
Photo by Joselito Tagarao
Empathy, which lets us understand and experience others' feelings, including anguish and grief, is a critical definer of our humanity, pivotal to our civilization. So are the impulses to protect children, to want to right wrongs, and to be outraged at unfairness. It's both natural and appropriate that in the wake of horrors such as the recent Sandy Hook massacre, we privately and publicly give voice to our empathy, and to our protective, outraged, and corrective impulses. Yet it's also important to check these impulses as the basis for policy when their cause is an outlier, an extreme. Emotion drives poor governance. Policy needs to have a cool head as well as a warm heart.

Multiple shootings by deranged individuals inevitably command enormous media and public attention. In such cases, heart tends to shove head out of the way. That's apparent when mothers in the midwest say they rushed to pull their children out of school when they heard of the carnage in Connecticut 1,000 miles away, organizational leaders propose stationing armed guards at schools, or otherwise reasonable commentators say we need to jettison part of the Constitution, just to cite three examples. The circumstances make such reactions fathomable emotionally, but the facts don't support them logically. Overall, our schools are very, very, safe, and violent gunplay is a sensational but statistically small threat to our children.

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Jeff Smith / Comments (7)

Anthony Abbate Jr. Fri Dec 07 2012

Intervention Allowed in Bar Beating Case

anthony abbate jr civil trialBy Julia Gray

Two lawyers who handle cases of police misconduct were given the go ahead by a federal judge on Friday to intervene on behalf of the public good to stop the City of Chicago's attempt to have the "code of silence" judgment of the notorious videotaped assault on a bartender by an off-duty Chicago police officer vacated.

The City of Chicago argued that the case as it stands would be detrimental to the public, taxpayers and the city, because it would open the floodgates of litigation against the City and the police department. City attorney Scott Jebson argued that the "risks of misusing the judgement in future cases" could be costly.

"We don't want the judgment improperly used," Jebson said.

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Crime Sat Dec 01 2012

Illinois Politicians and Federal Investigations: The Latest Digest

Humor is the best way to maintain one's sanity when analyzing the consistent and intimate relationship that Illinois elected officials seem to have with federal investigations, corruption, and/or the inside of a jail cell. Here's the latest on the people we voted for currently fighting the law.

Jesse Jackson Jr., who was re-elected despite being on leave as he seeks treatment for bi-polar disorder and under federal investigation for alleged misuse of campaign funds, finally resigned from congress last week, breaking his pre-election promise to return to duty once he dealt with his medical issues. Chris Good of ABC News thinks the re-election could cost Illinois $5.1 million. While we wait for another election to fill the seat of the 2nd district, several possible candidates have already thrown their hat in the ring. One of them is former 90's congressman, and former state and federal convict Mel Reynolds. He served state time for 12 counts of sexual assault, obstruction of justice and child pornography. He would have served more time in federal prison for unrelated bank fraud, but his sentence was commuted by President Clinton. You would wonder if the constituents of the 2nd district would vote for a former felon, but they did just elect an absentee congressman who is currently under federal investigation -- by a landslide no less. Other candidates that may be interested in the seat range from the bombastic -- former Rod Blagojevich and R.Kelly attorney Sam Adam Jr., to the more expected such as former representative Debbie Halverson (who unsuccessfully tried to unseat Jackson in the primary), or State Senators Donne Trotter and Toi Hutchinson. We hope whoever is elected can serve their term without being investigated by the Feds, but this is Illinois after all.

The Tribune reports that in another part of Chicagoland, state legislature LaShawn Ford was indicted on "federal charges he made false statements to a bank to obtain a $500,000 increase on a line of credit." Allegedly the money was used for credit cards and casino debts when it was supposed to be used for real estate rehabilitation. He has told the media that he is innocent of the charges. Though we have to wait for the judicial process to determine his guilt, it's difficult to suppress the cynicism. Illinoisans have heard "I'm innocent" many times before.

Derrick Smith, the state representative who was expelled from the Illinois General Assembly because of his federal indictment for alleged bribery has his trial date scheduled for October of 2013. In September I wrote about Smith being projected to win his seat for re-election, and despite his obvious ethical concerns, he was in fact re-elected. Though he won't be able to serve in the General Assembly, his seat won't technically be given up unless he's convicted of the bribery charge. Until then, it will be another constituency without representation.

If Jackson, Ford, and Smith do find themselves incarcerated as a result of their respective federal charges, they'll at least be in familiar company. George Ryan will be in prison at least through next July, and Rod Blagojevich will be there for quite some time.

Christopher Jones

Anthony Abbate Jr. Wed Nov 14 2012

The Anthony Abbate, Jr. Civil Trial: And This Verdict Means What Now?

anthony abbate jr civil trialBy Julia Gray

When a federal jury on Tuesday found in favor of Karolina Obrycka and found the City of Chicago and Anthony Abbate, Jr. responsible, and awarded her $850,000 in compensatory damages, Obrycka said she was glad that justice had been served.

Her plans now are to get on with her life and put the incident behind her, her lawyer Gustavo Munoz said. Munoz added that she's still terrified of Abbate, even though she hasn't had any contact with him except during legal proceedings. In fact, she's terrified of the police and of men she doesn't know, Munoz said.

"She'll only deal with cops in a public setting with other people around," Munoz added.

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Anthony Abbate Jr. Wed Nov 07 2012

Anthony Abbate, Jr. Civil Trial: Summation of the Summations

anthony abbate jr civil trialBy Julia Gray

Holding up a DVD of the infamous bar beat-down as a reference, the plaintiff's attorney, Pat Provenzale, stated that the city "came this close to walking away from getting one of the biggest black eyes in its history."

During the next two very long hours, Provenzale discussed the case at length against both the City of Chicago and Anthony Abbate, Jr., reiterating how there is allegedly a code of silence ensconced within the police department and how that code was enacted immediately following the attack on Karolina Obrycka by then-police officer Abbate in February 2007. The second part of the suit claims that Obrycka's First Amendment rights were violated when Abbate and his friends allegedly attempted to block her from releasing the video of her attack, which, if released, could damage the reputations of both the police department and Abbate.

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Anthony Abbate Jr. Mon Nov 05 2012

Anthony Abbate, Jr. Civil Trial Roundup

anthony abbate jr civil trialBy Julia Gray

During the past two weeks, the Anthony Abbate, Jr. civil trial has kept an audience of three to 15 people riveted with sparkling testimony peppered with more answers of "I don't recall" and more sidebars than seemed humanly possible. What was presented that wasn't dull was mounds and mounds of evidence — or not — depending on which side you're on.

The focus of this trial is whether or not a code of silence was at play immediately following the incident at Jesse's Shortstop Inn in February 2007.

We've heard the testimony of both the main people in this trial: Anthony Abbate, Jr. and Karolina Obrycka. Also, we've heard the testimony of friends and former coworkers of Abbate, which caused a few watching to ponder why the former Chicago police officer had such lousy friends.

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Mechanics / Comments (1)

Anthony Abbate Jr. Mon Oct 29 2012

Anthony Abbate, Jr. Civil Trial, Day 6: Police Expert & the Plaintiff Take the Stand

anthony abbate jr civil trialBy Julia Gray

Former Los Angeles Police Officer/Sergeant/Lieutenant/Commander and finally Deputy Chief of Police and now police misconduct expert, Lou Reiter, testified today in the Obrycka vs. The City of Chicago and Anthony Abbate, Jr. civil trial. Reiter has worked all over Los Angeles in the LAPD and at one point oversaw roughly 1,500 officers. Also during his long career with the LAPD, he investigated employee misconduct within the force. He made disciplinary recommendations, aided in setting up a standards and practices guideline for the force that was eventually a model for all police departments in the US. Reiter was employed by the LAPD from 1961 to 1981, and then he moved to Tallahassee, FL in 1983 to become a police consultant.

In other words, it's safe to say that Reiter knows the police business. So far, he's the plaintiff's most important witness since he's a big believer that code of silence exists within the Chicago Police Department. What about this case stuck in Reiter's craw? Well, he wasn't too fond of the time not long after the attack when two investigators showed up at Obrycka's house with a blank misdemeanor battery arrest report for her to sign. Oh and the cops leaving Jesse's Shortstop Inn the night of the incident without even looking at the video tape bugged Reiter, too. The 22 days when none of Abbate's bosses had a clue as to where he was wasn't a good thing either, according to Reiter.

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Anthony Abbate Jr. Fri Oct 26 2012

Anthony Abbate, Jr. Civil Trial, Day 4, Part 2 and Day 5: Searching for Jack McCoy

anthony abbate jr civil trialby Julia Gray

Thursday, Day 4 Continued

Turns out that Anthony Abbate's childhood friend, city truck driver Gary Ortiz, is a self-proclaimed "phone-aholic." He's also friends with Patti Chiriboga and Abbate's girlfriend Linda Burnickas, and he used to dig on hanging out at Jesse's Shortstop Inn. In fact, he liked Jesse's so much, he ended up there the night of the incident right after it happened. No, he wasn't summoned by either Abbate or Chiriboga, he heard it on his police scanner that the cops were at the bar doing a "license check."

That makes me want a scanner too, but I hear they're tough to come by these days.

A "license check" you ask? Yes, according to Ortiz who heard the term from his pal Abbate, whenever cops are called to a bar for whatever reason, it's protocol to make sure the establishment's liquor license is up to date because if it isn't, it could spell a whole lot of ick for the owners. I mean, they'd then have to figure out which palms to grease in order to update the license, see. (Fortunately for Jesse's, the license was good to go.)

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Anthony Abbate Jr. Thu Oct 25 2012

Anthony Abbate Civil Trial, Day 4 Part 1: That's What She Said ...Maybe

anthony abbate jr civil trialBy Julia Gray

Today is one of those days where it's best to work backwards and break it up into two stories because, yes, this particular part of the tale of woe is a definite two-parter.

The day ended with the testimony of fellow bartender and Linda Tripp look-a-like for the aughts, Patti Chiriboga. Or rather, both Mr. Ekl and Ms. Rubens, attorneys for the plaintiff and the City respectively, read her March 2007 grand jury testimony back to Chiriboga to which today's responses varied from "If you say so, yes" to "I don't recall" to "Yes" to "I guess so."

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Media Wed Oct 03 2012

Vice Will Move Their CeaseFire Documentary (But Won't Discuss Their Editorial Process)

Cure Violence, Chicago Interrupted, Dishonored video game Two weeks ago, I explained how Vice Media produced a documentary about violence prevention group CeaseFire (now Cure Violence) and used it to help sell Dishonored, a video game with the tagline, "Revenge Solves Everything." The hotly -anticipated game allows the player to control an assassin with magical powers in a 19th-century England-inspired fantasy setting, and will come out on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 next Tuesday, Oct. 9. Vice had partnered with the game's publisher, Bethesda Softworks, to create an online multimedia Dishonored promotion called Eye For An Eye, a website dedicated to the "world's best revenge stories." Apparently, the story of an organization trying to prevent murders caused by personal vendettas fit this bill.

As of last Wednesday, the two-part Cure Violence documentary, Chicago Interrupted, has been removed from Eye For An Eye. After several inquiries, I eventually got a Vice Media representative to officially comment on the removal. Ironically, Vice refused to answer numerous questions I asked about the documentary's production and their general editorial standards...just as they've begun a campaign to brand themselves as the future of news media.

But let's backtrack for a moment.

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Jason Prechtel / Comments (1)

Crime Mon Aug 27 2012

Chicago's Violence at Its Source

by Tyler Zimmer

This past weekend 37 people were shot, nine of them fatally. The previous weekend, there were 30 shootings, six of them homicides. This summer, figures of this magnitude — between 30 to 40 people shot, four to eight killed — have been the norm rather than the exception.

Of course, high levels of gun violence in Chicago have been a persistent problem for years, but the spike in killings this summer — the murder rate is up 49 percent according to recent estimates — has drawn the attention of national media. Recent articles in The Daily and Gawker compare Chicago to the Wild West, on the one hand, and Kabul on the other. Those comparisons may be ill-advised and inaccurate, as Whet Moser points out, but they are indicative of a deeply troubling state of affairs nonetheless.

How did we get here? Why is gun violence in Chicago such a persistent problem?

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Mechanics / Comments (15)

Crime Sat Jul 28 2012

"Flash Mob" Robs Store During Wicker Park Fest

More than a dozen people participated in a "flash mob" style robbery of Mildblend Supply Co. on Saturday Night, making off with an estimated $2,000 dollars worth of merchandise.

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Mike Ewing / Comments (2)

Crime Fri Jun 15 2012

Mayor Emanuel Backs Weed Decriminalization

Give it up for Mayor Emanuel, who, faced with a shortage of public safety resources (which moved the police union to put up a billboard demanding more officers), has come out publicly in support of legislation that would make possession of less than 15 grams (about 0.5 ounces) a municipal infraction subject to fine, but not arrest unless circumstances otherwise warrant them. Mick Dumke of the Reader has done yeoman's work on the issue of marijuana arrests and all the resources they suck up (and the needlessly long rap sheets they generate).

Police Superintendent McCarthy has said that arrests for small quantities of marijuana tied up 45,000 hours of police time last year. The movement to decriminalize possession (as opposed to trafficking) is growing, with fifteen states decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The Fraternal Order of Police has not yet issued a statement about the possible legislation.

Ramsin Canon

Crime Thu Mar 29 2012

Former Zoning Inspector Found Guilty of Bribery

The Office of Inspector General and United States Attorney's Office announced today that former Chicago zoning inspector Dominick Owens was found guilty of two counts of bribery.

Owens, 45, of Chicago has been sentenced to one year and one day in prison.

According to a press release from the Office of Inspector General, Owens is guilty of accepting two separate bribes of $600 in exchange for certificates of occupancy at four residential properties. The maximum penalty Owens faced was 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of bribery.

A cooperating witness testified that in 2006 he asked Owens for certificates of occupancy for properties at 6109 N. Wolcott and 3713 S. Wallace. On July 10, 2006 Owens filed a request for the certificates in a database and then marked it as completed 12 minutes later. The witness then gave Owens $600 in cash in return for the certificates.

According to the press release, this is the final sentencing in Operation Crooked Code. Operation Crooked Code was launched in 2007 as a joint investigation between the Chicago Inspector General Office, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney's Office. Operation Crooked Code has resulted in 22 convictions, including 16 of former or current City employees in Chicago.

Anyone with any information on corruption in the city government is encouraged to call the Inspector General Office at 866-448-4754.

Monica Reida / Comments (1)

Chicagoland Mon Mar 19 2012

Action Now Protests Scrap Yard Accepting Stolen Property

Action Now members rallied in front of JB Metals in the Englewood neighborhood on Thursday morning to highlight a parasitic practice of profiting off of stolen goods. Activists, many residing in the area, claim the scrap metal company knowingly accepts stolen property like fences or aluminum siding from scrappers thus depreciating home values and further harming the neighborhood.

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Aaron Krager / Comments (1)

Op-Ed Thu Feb 09 2012

Deeper Questions on the City Sticker Controversy

by Bob Quellos

City Clerk Susana Mendoza withdrew 15-year-old Herbie Pulgar's entry into the annual contest to design Chicago's city sticker yesterday after fears that the sticker design contained gang affiliated symbols and threats to the Chicago Police Department. This action and the controversy surrounding Pulgar's design leaves me with some questions and thoughts:

First, Jody Weis is still in Chicago? After a not so glamorous stint as head of the CPD, it seemed like Jody Weis had finally been run out of town. Apparently not. Perhaps Weis put himself forward as head interpreter of the city sticker as a way of letting us know he's still in Chicago where he's been working hard to put together a coloring book about Chicagoland gangs for the Chicago Crime Commission.

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Mechanics / Comments (16)

Pop Culture Thu Feb 02 2012

The Colbert Report Gets Interrupted

Ameena Matthews, one of the "violence interrupters" featured in the documentary The Interrupters, was on "The Colbert Report" Wednesday night. No matter what you thought of the film or the effectiveness of CeaseFire's mission, it's clear that Matthews is a force to be reckoned with. The Interrupters will be broadcast on PBS's "Frontline" on Feb. 14.

Andrew Huff

Crime Fri Jan 20 2012

Housing & Crime in Uptown

by Ronnie Reese

Shelly Friede, a single mother of three, looked a high-ranking member of the conservative Vice Lords street gang in the eye and asked a question.

"Are you trying to shoot my children?"

That was seven years ago, when Friede first moved into subsidized housing in the 4400 block of North Magnolia in Uptown. Her 24-unit courtyard building stood in Black P Stone Ranger territory and had been riddled with bullets from a drive-by shooting by the rival Vice Lords.

Two years later, Friede was pregnant with her youngest child, Sebastian, when her family came under fire again. This time, it was an internal dispute among the P Stones as "they shot down the gangway, then shot over my head," she recalled.

The physical landscape of Uptown has changed a great deal since Friede's first run-in with violence there. Wilson Yard, a former CTA rail storage and maintenance facility destroyed by fire in 1996, has been redeveloped to include residential apartments, a Target and an Aldi supermarket. Nearby, a mid-rise residential condominium sits on the former site of the 46th Ward office in the 1000 block of West Montrose Avenue.

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Mechanics / Comments (9)

Feature Tue Dec 13 2011

Pardon the Interruption

By Michael Moreci

Earlier this year, Tio Hardiman saved the life of a young man who was about to be murdered by an elder member of his own gang. There was a miscommunication when the young man abruptly disappeared to care for his ailing mother; at the same time, his gang was raided by the police, leaving the gang to suspect they'd been sold out. Hardiman got word of the execution that was about to take place and literally talked the elder gang member down — but not after having his own life threatened.

"He told me he was going to put me to sleep," Hardiman said.

For some, this intervention would be heroic act of courage; for Hardiman, it's another day at the office.

Hardiman is an "interrupter" for — and director of — CeaseFire, a non-violence organization based out of the University of Illinois at Chicago campus. The role of an interrupter is exactly what it sounds like — Hardiman, and others like him, work to prevent retaliatory violence.

"People can change, that's what we believe," Hardiman said. "We're in the business of changing behavior and mindsets associated with violence."

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Mechanics / Comments (1)

Law Wed Nov 02 2011

Today In Coincidences

Two stories today, guys. First, this:

Solís introduced an ordinance to the City Council to issue tickets for pot possession of 10 grams or less instead of sending offenders to jail. The move would free up already bogged-down officers, he said, and put more cops on the streets.

"We are now starting the debate on what specifically marijuana usage is and what kind of system we have in terms of processing people from the beginning," Solis said, "from arrest through it being thrown out in court."

Under the proposed ordinance, offenders would face a $200 fine and 10 hours of community service instead of jail time. Solís and supporters presented statistics showing minorities currently are disproportionately arrested for small amounts of pots.

Meanwhile, over at the Sun-Times, this:

In recent years, Chicago and Atlanta have become key transportation hubs for the cartels, Riley said. Most of their pot comes to Chicago in trains and semi trucks.

A lot of that marijuana is being shipped here by the Sinaloa Cartel and protected with unthinkable violence, Riley said.

"Chapo Guzman, now that Osama is dead, is in my opinion the most dangerous criminal in the world and probably the most wealthy criminal in the world," he said. "Guzman was in the Forbes Top 100 most wealthy people in the world. His ability to produce revenue off marijuana, we've never seen it before. We've never seen a criminal organization so well-focused and with such business sense, and so vicious and violent."


"The guy sitting on the patio in Hinsdale -- smoking a joint with his friend and having a drink -- better think twice," Riley said. "Because he's part of the problem."

So no pressure or anything, but smoking a joint on your porch means you love the new Osama Bin Laden.

Ramsin Canon

Justice Fri Aug 19 2011

Chicago Says No to Erroneously Named "Secure Communities" Program

Updated with comment from Governor Quinn's office

by Shelly Ruzicka

Yesterday undocumented youth in Chicago led hundreds of families, allies, and religious supporters in a large demonstration protesting the Department of Homeland Security's "Secure Communities" program, or S-Comm. Hearings have recently been held across the country after ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Director John Morton stated that the program would be mandatory.


Not long ago, Illinois joined other states to opt-out of the voluntary program which required local police to fingerprint anyone they stopped and send that information to ICE. Shortly after Governor Quinn signed the bill opting out of S-Comm into law, Morton stated that the program would no longer be voluntary but mandatory, thereby negating the will of states to abandon the program which many say lead to racial profiling and distrust of police. Communities and county sheriffs have stated that "Secure Communities" has led to a greater disconnect between police and immigrant communities. People who witness crimes are afraid to go to police out of fear they may be questioned, fingerprinted, and deported. Women don't report domestic violence for the same reason. Workers are afraid to drive to their jobs or to pick up their children from school out of fear of being pulled over for a busted tail light or a cop who has been compelled to target "foreign" looking drivers.

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Chicago Thu Aug 11 2011

Action Now Tries to Help BofA but Member is Arrested Instead

Earlier this week Action Now board member Marsha Godard tried to deliver a stack of violation notices to Bank of America headquarters. She entered as customer trying to receive assistance and help bring attention to the plight of vacant homes on the South Side. Instead of simply accepting them and calling it a day, Bank of America called the police and had her arrested for criminal trespassing.

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Aaron Krager

Crime Wed Jun 22 2011

A Year of Chicago Crime in 30 Seconds

NYU PhD student Drew Conway took a year's worth of crime data, released on the Chicago Data Portal on Sunday, and visualized it on a map of the city, creating a very clear picture of where and when crime occurs. Read more about it on Conway's blog.

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Andrew Huff

Police Wed Mar 23 2011

Humboldt Park Residents React to WBEZ Video of "Questionable" CPD Actions

WBEZ broke a big story yesterday, releasing a video that appears to show two Chicago Police Department officers engaging in what the station describes as "questionable" behavior. Standing outside a squad car, the officers allow a large group of men to gather closely around the open back door to hurl insults as well as apparent gang signs and slogans at another man, who is visibly shaken, in the back of the cruiser.

The radio station posted the story yesterday, showing the tape along with some words by staffers Steve Edwards and Robert Wildeboer and the station's Pritzker Fellow Samuel Vega, who first found the clip. (Watch the video at WBEZ's site.)

Vega says he first came across the video on Facebook. Assuming it would be quickly pulled, he ripped the video, downloading it to his computer. As he predicted, the video and the user account did disappear within a few days--leaving Vega the only one known to have a copy of the tape besides its original owner.

The CPD responded to WBEZ's request for comment late last night:

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Micah Uetricht / Comments (4)

Crime Mon Feb 14 2011

Study Chicago's Blue-Light Cameras? Why Bother

This article was submitted by freelance journalist Shane Shifflett.

After seven years and thousands of cameras, neither Chicago's police nor its public officials can claim that their video surveillance program, Police Observational Devices (PODs), is effective at stopping and preventing crimes. This shouldn't be a surprise, though. After sifting through mountains of crime data provided by the police and observing two Chicago neighborhoods, the Urban Institute, a public policy think tank in Washington D.C., couldn't say how well the cameras were working. What may be surprising, however, is that the police department looked into this twice before; they never shared the findings and evidence suggests no one will ever know if the system is truly effective.

In 2005, a group of Northwestern University students led by Dr. Mark Iris, professor of law and politics and former head of the semi-independent Chicago Police Board, examined 137 cameras throughout the city to conclude the system has "mixed levels of effectiveness." Which is more or less what the Urban Institute has said. Just one year later, in 2006, the Chicago Police Department evaluated 111 of its own cameras to uncover a measurable 13.7 percent decrease in reported crime incidents near cameras. Iris' study contained 100 pages of detail and analysis (with 42 pages of crime data provided by the police) while the police department's examination consisted of eight pages of findings and an additional 18 pages of crime data. But both of these studies have remained under the lock and key of the police department since they were conceived.

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Mechanics / Comments (2)

Media Mon Sep 20 2010

Around the City Reads

Some good stuff to catch up on this morning:

CBS 2: Daley Mentored Others as He Shaped Chicago: But he's still "absolutely the best mayor in the country," Berry said. "Nationally there's no question he's been probably one of the most successful and important big-city mayors in the last couple decades."

Progress Illinois: Shift Expected at CAPS: The ground continues to shift at the Chicago Police Department. On Thursday, outgoing Mayor Richard Daley said he wanted civilians rather than uniformed police officers to run the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) program. Ron Holt, the CAPS director, told the Tribune that too many of the 200 to 300 officers assigned to CAPS were doing administrative and civilian tasks. Many are expected to be reassigned to patrol work.

In These Times Working Blog: Hotel Quickie Strikes Build Union, Workers' Determination for Contract Battles: Workers in Chicago, like most of these cities, are responding with overwhelming strike authorization votes, protest rallies, sit-ins and civil disobedience, campaigns to persuade organizations and individuals to boycott certain hotels, and-last week-a planned one-day strike against hotel union UNITE HERE's national target, Hyatt, in four cities.

People of Color Organize!: Solidarity With Whittier School Occupation: The Whittier Parents' Committee has been organizing for seven years to push Pilsen alderman Daniel Solis to allocate some of the estimated $1 billion in Mayor Daley's TIF coffers to their school for a school expansion - he finally agreed to give $1.4million of TIF funds for school renovation. Cynically, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has earmarked a part of this money for the destruction of the school's field house, which has been used for years as a center for community organizing and services. This would directly undermine the ability of the Whittier community to organize and struggle for educational rights. Parents are demanding to be part of the decision-making process.

Austin Talks: March against violence challenges community to fight back: Graham urged residents to take a stand against gun, gang and domestic violence. Rev. Jennie Jones of Pleasant Ridge Missionary Baptist Church led the group in prayer and pleaded for strength in the fight against violence plaguing Austin.

Chicago Union News: Adjunct faculty at Chicago college cries foul while trying to organize: With only a few weeks until fall classes begin, some part-time instructors at East-West University in Chicago's South Loop are still waiting to see if they will be hired back to teach after what has been a "messy" summer-long conflict involving efforts to unionize.

Ramsin Canon

Feature Thu Aug 19 2010

From Mortgage Broker to Prison Maestro: The Story of Mario Benitez

[Editor's note: This story was submitted by freelance writer Michael Volpe.]

mario_benitez.jpgIt was the end of January 2009 and things were looking up for Mario Benitez. His employer, Pan American Mortgage, had recently promoted him from a reverse mortgage specialist to head of the reverse mortgage department. That also meant a bump in pay that would finally end his days of living paycheck to paycheck. Since the mortgage market tanked in 2008, Benitez, like most mortgage professionals, struggled mightily with his own finances. Furthermore, he had made inroads in Chicago's Hispanic Republican community and was in the beginning stages of forming a political consulting firm dedicated to reaching the Hispanic community.

But his outward good fortune was masking an internal terror. For the last year and a half, Benitez was on the wrong end of a criminal proceeding. He had broken into his neighbor's home and stolen $130 almost twoyears prior when he was living in Florida. It was the sort of crime that would usually get a slap on the wrist had it happened in Chicago, but it happened in Brevard County Florida. He was dealing with it almost entirely alone. He didn't tell any of his co workers or friends. In fact, when he walked into the Brevard County courtroom on January 31st, 2009, he was still expecting to fly back home to Chicago at the end of the weekend. His expectations were wrong. For the next year and a half, Benitez would become a resident of some of the toughest prisons in Florida. He'd wind up in solitary confinement, in the crosshairs of a vicious gang, about to be deported, and he'd also wind up teaching mysticism to murderers, thieves and rapists. It's a journey borne out of recklessness, alcoholism and stupidity, but it's turned into a unique journey into America's underbelly.

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Mechanics / Comments (1)

Crime Tue Aug 10 2010

The Politics of Watching: Cost/Benefit of the Cop-In-A-Box

[This piece was submitted by freelance journalist Shane Shifflett, photos by Andrew Huff]

Millions of federal dollars have been invested in miles of fiber optics in Chicago and more than 1,000 surveillance cameras to create one of America's most sophisticated crime-fighting networks. There is, however, a problem: No one knows how well it actually works.

Nancy La Vigne, the director of the Criminal Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, and her team of researchers want to rectify this.

Their conclusion, which has yet to be publicly released, seems unique among the small number of similar studies conducted in other U.S. cities.

"The use of cameras is cost beneficial," La Vigne said.

To reach their conclusion, researchers compared the number and types of crimes in Humboldt Park and West Garfield Park to other neighborhoods that were statistically similar but without cameras. They discovered that for every $1 spent on cameras, the city saves $2 by preventing crimes, she said. By reducing the burden on the legal system society saves money, La Vigne said.

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Mechanics / Comments (6)

Crime Thu Jul 01 2010

A Culture of Torture: Mark Clements, Jon Burge, and the Chicago Police Department

[This article was submitted by freelance journalist Michael Volpe.]

"Nigger boy, you gonna cooperate?" a 220lb. Chicago police officer screamed as he pounded on the chest of 16-year-old, 120lb. Mark Clements. As the beating continued, pain shot out from Clements' chest and exploded into the rest of his body. He gasped for air, struggling to breathe, in excruciating pain. Clements say the officer, whom he identifies as John McCann, had a way of getting his knuckles to the tenderest part of the bone.

Clements could barely read. He hadn't even finished seventh grade but he was smart enough to know what the cops wanted. They wanted Clements to confess to an arson that occurred at 6600 S. Wentworth six days earlier. The beating went on like this for nearly 30 minutes, but still Clements remained stubborn. He'd gotten into enough fights in the neighborhood to be able to withstand a beating.

Clements remained quiet and refused to give in even as welts grew in his chest from the officer's fists cracking his bones. Then, they stopped hitting Clements. Instead, Clements says, McCann grabbed his balls and squeezed. This was a pain he'd never experienced before. There was only one thing that would stop it.

"Yeah, yeah, I'll cooperate," Clements said, in unbearable pain. That's how Mark Clements remembers and recounted that night nearly 30 years after it occurred (neither the Chicago Police Department nor the Cook County State's Attorney's office would respond to requests for comment for this article). A few hours later, at about 2am on the morning of June 26th 1981, Mark Clements would sign a confession to an arson at 6600 S. Wentworth six days earlier that killed four people. A year and a half later he'd get four life sentences and become the youngest person in the history of the state of Illinois to receive a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

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Mechanics / Comments (12)

Law Mon Jun 28 2010

Chicago Handgun Ban Struck Down by Supreme Court

Based on case law that found that the Bill of Rights applies to the states as well as the federal government, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to strike down the City of Chicago's handgun ban. Despite conservative demagoguing, the City wasn't "ignoring" or "blocking" a Constitutional right, but rather operating on the basis of an interpretation that federal courts have upheld for generations. So while this reading of the applicability of the Bill of Rights (and other amendments) to the States may be better reasoned, it isn't plainly obvious, and pretending it is reveals the ignorance of the demagogues who do so.

Specifically the ruling would vacate a few elements of the city's municipal code, including Section 8-20-50, which classifies handguns as "unregisterable" firearms, thus making them illegal to own in the city limits.

As the Supreme Court's full decision states, the lower courts were following the direction of their own decades (and in some cases a century or more) of case law that directed them to find on behalf of the city, despite the recent Heller decision which vacated a Washington, D.C. handgun ban. Heller, along with some other recent Supreme Court decisions, created the precedents that provided the framework for this decision today.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (3)

Crime Wed Jun 23 2010

Crime, Cost, and Segregation

What will it take for Chicagoans to recognize a Chicago problem?

Today state Representatives LaShawn Ford (Austin) and John Fritchey (Lakeview) held a press conference [PDF] to bring attention to the costs of violent crime to all Chicagoans. The theme of the presser was that the rampant violence in parts of the city--particularly the West Side--end up costing all Chicagoans, not just the poor souls who live amidst the killing. While that's a good point, it's also a little distressing that in a single city, we need to use statistics like this:

Rep. Fritchey cited a 2009 University of Chicago Crime Lab report titled "Gun Violence Among School-Age Youth in Chicago"1, which states that the social costs that gun violence impose on Chicago exceed $2.5 billion per year, which is roughly $2,500 per Chicago household. According to previous research by Crime Lab member Philip Cook of Duke University and Crime Lab Co-director Jens Ludwig of the University of Chicago (Cook and Ludwig, 2000; Ludwig and Cook, 2001), every crime-related gunshot wound imposes costs on society on the order of $1 million. convince people that the public needs to begin pushing for a real comprehensive look at the causes of street crime, and stop pretending that paramilitary operations are the only solution.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Blagojevich Fri Jun 18 2010

So You Don't Have To: Choice Excerpts from the Blagojevich Transcripts

Occasionally, I defy conventional boring the shit out of yourself wisdom and read the transcripts from federal cases on the DOJ website. The Family Secrets trial of the Chicago Outfit has some particularly fascinating wiretap transcripts. Since I was whiling away the hours in this fashion, I figured I'd start pulling out some choice nuggets so you don't have to similarly while.

While discussing the alleged shakedown of the betting track owners, there's this nugget:

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Ramsin Canon

Aldermen Mon May 10 2010

Alderman Balcer Wins the Muzzle

Last year Aldermen James Balcer covered up a mural that depicted the Chicago Police Department's "cop-in-a-box" lightpole cameras in a critical way. Free speech and public arts advocates cried foul, but Balcer won the acclaim of...well, I'm not sure who, exactly, but probably a lot of people who still use expressions like "damn hippies" and "crumb bums".

Now he's won an actual award for his brave act of censorship: via Edmar of the Bridgeport International, we get this:

3) Chicago Alderman James A. Balcer

The private owner of the property and the artist have a right to some due process before an alderman simply orders troops out."

- Ed Yohnka of the ACLU reacting to Chicago Alderman James Balcer ordering the painting over of a mural on private property.

For claiming the authority to destroy a work of art based on his personal assessment of the work's content, a 2010 Jefferson Muzzle goes to...Chicago Alderman James A. Balcer.

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Ramsin Canon

Chicagoland Fri May 07 2010

Telling No Tales

The Northwest Herald has reported that troubled Metra chief Phil Pagano killed himself this morning -- by walking in front of a Metra train. The apparent suicide follows a number of actions taken by the commuter rail transit agency against its director, who made more than a quarter-million dollars salary, following reports that he padded that amount without authorization, and the launch of a criminal investigation by the Cook County State's Attorney.

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Jeff Smith

Wage Theft Tue Apr 27 2010

Wage Theft Crime Spree: What Will Stop It?


Victor Hernendez addresses a rally in the state capital in Springfield. Hernendez was a victim of wage theft.

You work assuming you'll be paid, but too often, workers are simply denied what they're owed. It happened to Kim Kambra who worked at Jericho Products in Springwood. "They didn't pay me. I worked over 55 hours a week and they paid me for one week out of the last 10 weeks. My house went into foreclosure and I lost the legal rights to my house even though I still live there."

Kambra was one of many Jericho employees who were not paid. Computer programmer Bill Van Dusen worked for 12 years at Jericho but for three months in 2008 and another three months in 2009, Dusen was not paid. "I had to use the money we saved for our kids' education to pay our bills."

Jericho went beyond not paying their employees. The company "stole our deductions for health insurance and child support. They collected that but didn't pay it to the proper person they needed to pay it to," according to Van Dusen.

However, Jericho's owners have been paid handsomely. Kevin Lynch, one of the owners of Jericho Products would have wild venison for his dogs and chrome parts for his car delivered to the company while three employees' homes went into foreclosure.

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Matt Muchowski / Comments (1)

Crime Fri Apr 23 2010

Cameras in Cabs Coming Soon to Prevent Crime

Think twice before you act a fool in a Chicago cab: the driver will soon be able to snap a picture of you to use if you get out of line.

The Trib is reporting that cameras will be installed in cabs around the city in an effort to curb crimes against drivers.

According to the article, in other cities where cameras have been installed, such crimes have dropped considerably. Already installed in some cabs, they've been used to easily solve crimes against Chicago drivers in the past.

Last fall, local journalist Kari Lydersen wrote a disturbing Chicago Reader cover story on the dangers that faced cab drivers in the city, focusing on the case of Walid Ziada, who was beaten last January in Lakeview. His experience is fairly common: a 2009 University of Illinois-Chicago study reported one in five cabbies have been assaulted on the job.

In addition to the dangers of driving, most cab drivers make far less than minimum wage. According to a 2009 study by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign's Center for Labor and Employment Relations and the American Friends Service Committee, "cabdrivers are chronically overworked and underpaid close to the point of 'economic failure,'" working grueling 12-hour days and making an average of $4.38 an hour. Michael McConnell, regional director of the AFSC, called Chicago cabs "sweatshops on wheels."

Insanely long hours, miniscule pay, high risk of robbery, frequent acts of brutal violence--it's enough to make you think twice before complaining about the high price of your cab fare next time. Besides, you should probably straighten up now that your driver will have a snapshot of you.

Micah Uetricht

Social Issues Mon Apr 05 2010

Sex Trafficking In Chicago: "Victimless" Crimes & Their Victims

Maria is lying on the bed. She's been trying to get up, lifting her head, maybe rolling over onto an elbow, but she's gotten nowhere. Another half attempt to sit upright. She reaches in her pocket and fumbles with a cell phone. She wants to call her best friend Tammy, but her fingers forget where they're going and never make it past the US Cellular logo above the keypad. "Tammy, you wouldn't believe what I'm about to do," she'd tell her. But she can't get as far as calling her.

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Danny Fenster / Comments (7)

Police Wed Mar 31 2010

Marvin Reeves is Free

There are very few injustices worse than the wrongful imprisonment of an innocent person--and the loss of decades of their life in incarceration. Reading the brutal story of Marvin Reeves, tortured by Jon Burge and friends into a false confession and stuffed in prison for nearly 25 years, the moral certitude of the maxim that it is better to let a hundred guilty men go free than to punish one innocent man is plainly self-evident.

MARVIN TELLS me to pull into an alley, and we get out of the car. He points to a boarded-up window of another large brick apartment complex. "This was where the bedroom was," he says. "It was my sister Sonya's apartment, and I stayed there sometimes. I worked just around the block at a mechanic's shop, and I would come here and park my car right here, outside the bedroom window, so I could see the car."

He goes back in time to the day--August 26, 1988:

It was 4 o'clock in the morning when the cops knocked on the door, and my sister Sonya went to answer it. She unlocked the door, but before she could open it, they busted the door in and broke her toe.

She started screaming--that's what woke me up. The next thing I knew, there were two cops at my bedroom door, guns drawn and pointing at me, yelling, "Nigger, if you move, I'll blow your fucking brains out." I had no idea what was going on.

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Ramsin Canon

Media Tue Mar 16 2010

KassWatch: Mob Watchin'

Kudos to John Kass for reporting on Outfit machinations that influence and corrupt public institutions. I mean that seriously; despite my intense dislikes of Kass' contrived folksy jus' folks columns, He is more or less the only mainstream reporter who regularly delves into the world of high-level organized crime and its interconnections to mainstream politics. His latest piece, marking the beginning of the "DeLeo era" in the 36th Ward--given the retirement of William Banks, the former Alderman, and the death of his brother Sam--is an eye opening one that reminds Chicagoans that despite the many body blows the Outfit has received, it is still alive and well and corrupting away.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

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Parents Still Steaming, but About More Than Just Boilers

By Phil Huckelberry / 2 Comments

It's now been 11 days since the carbon monoxide leak which sent over 80 Prussing Elementary School students and staff to the hospital. While officials from Chicago Public Schools have partially answered some questions, and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has informed that he will be visiting the school to field more questions on Nov. 16, many parents remain irate at the CPS response to date. More...


Substance, Not Style, the Source of Rahm's Woes

By Ramsin Canon / 2 Comments

It's not surprising that some of Mayor Emanuel's sympathizers and supporters are confusing people's substantive disputes with the mayor as the effect of poor marketing on his part. It's exactly this insular worldview that has gotten the mayor in hot... More...

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