The Evanston City Council’s Human Services Committee Monday rejected a proposal to adopt a “gang loitering” ordinance modeled on a similar provision of Chicago’s city code.

The measure was intended to address complaints from residents in certain neighborhoods, including the 8th Ward, that groups of youths loitering on street corners are intimidating people, disturbing the peace and may be engaged in drug dealing and other criminal activity.

The ordinance would have let the police chief designate certain areas of town as hot spots of gang activity.

Then any time police officers saw at least one known gang member congregating with other people on the street in that area for what the officers reasonably believed were illicit purposes, the officers could order them to disperse.

If any members of the group failed to disperse or returned to the area within eight hours, they could face arrest and a fine of $100 to $500.

None of the aldermen on the committee seemed pleased with the ordinance. “I’ve got a lot of trouble with it,” Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th ward, said.

“I wrote all over it,” added Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said, “I would not like to see kids labeled gang bangers just for a lack of recreational places for them to go.”

Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, said, “Groups of kids, whoever they are, might intimidate some people. I just have a lot of problems with this.”

He suggested that more foot patrols by police might be a better answer. “We want police to be respected and when they tell kids to disperse, have them disperse.” He said when the city had officers on foot patrols they were able to establish respect with young people so that the kids would comply with the officer’s directions.

Police Chief Richard Eddington said, “This proposal was on the agenda before I got here. There doesn’t seem to be a groundswell of support to do it. I’m a proficient technician. I can implement it if you want. If not, I’ll find another way to address the problem.”

Kristin Doll of 140 Custer St. said she is very sensitive to the issue of criminalizing innocent kids who don’t have anywhere to go, but that residents “are very intimidated.”

The groups of young people, she said, “smoke pot; have alcohol in their hands.”

“I’ve been harassed for walking by, been called names I won’t repeat,” she said, “There needs to be something the police can do. So often we call the police, the kids scatter, the police leave and the kids come back.”

“I’m sure a lot of these people are not certified gang members,” she added, “but they’re engaging in disruptive, intimidating behavior.”

Ald. Jean-Baptiste said the police department “already has laws it can enforce, such as disorderly conduct. If the young people have done these things, they ought to be arrested.”

He said the ordinance would lead to “fascistic treatment” of the young people. “It would create a society were every corner has a camera and we’re still not able to address the issues.”

“We’re still a small enough community to be able to reach out to these young people who are disturbing the community with their behavior and try to change the behavior,” he added.

Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, told Ms. Doll, “We respect your concerns very much.  This committee takes very seriously the situations such as you’re describing. I think you’re entitled to be outraged. But the question is how to come to peace as a community. Sometimes you want to bring the hammer down; sometimes you want to go with a more social, personal interaction approach.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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14 Comments

  1. Teens loitering near Church and Maple
    The cops need to do a better job dispersing the teens that hang around Church and Maple (near the theater). Imagine what it’s like to eat dinner (outside) at Wolfgang Puck. Instead of a relatively quiet, peaceful dinner, you’re surrounded by 20 or 30 foul-mouthed, loud-mouthed, obnoxious high school students. They shout, they chase each other around, they block the sidewalk — the list goes on. This sort of thing makes me regret moving to downtown Evanston.

    1. Kids are enjoying hanging
      Kids are enjoying hanging around and meeting friends just as you are enjoying eating dinner. This has nothing to do with Gang activity.

      It is selfish of adults to demand kids to not socialize just because adults find it annoying.

      If you like a quiet restaurant, go to a quiet place. You have the choice to make. No one is asking you to eat at Wolfgang Puck.

      When you were in teens, I am sure you have fun memory of hanging around in the town to socialize with friends.

  2. Reasonable limits on loitering
    As stated, I can see why many Aldermen have a problem with this ordinance – “known gang member” may does not necessarily mean “criminal history”.

    However, I don’t understand why limits can’t be set on loitering in front of private property on a street that’s zoned residential. That’s why we have parks and business districts. There is no reason for large groups to hang out in the public way in front of people’s homes – that space is intended for passers-by, not for socializing. There is no reason to spend time on the public way in front of someone else’s home unless you are an invited guest. This is disturbing to the peace of residents even in a best-case scenario.

    I don’t think an ordinace limiting the number of people who may remain on a public way for a specified amount of time limits anyone’s civil rights, provided there are alternate places to assemble peaceably.

  3. Why are there no more problems in the neighborhoods by NU?
    Why aren’t residents in the Neighborhoods by NU still complaining about student behavior? It appears to me NU cracked down on the students and they stop acting in large groups. The city does not appear to want to deal with this problem. The police department may not have the manpower to deal with it?

    I think most of the council members are out of touch with reality when it comes to crime. They want to pretend it does not exist here. Many of these youth are tomorrows criminals. Evanston has plenty of criminals – and no one on the council wants to admitted it. They recently hire a youth coordinator – lets hear his plan for the problem. Maybe he can go hang out on the street corner? Maybe Ed Moran can go provide the “personal social interaction” on a street corner in the 5th or 8th ward he speaks of at the council.

    1. “Many of these youth are
      “Many of these youth are tomorrows criminals”. It is terrible to make blind statement to generlize kids gathering around to be tomorrow’s criminal.

      If your son or daughter is hanging around the corner, would you make a judgement to assume that they will be criminals in future?

      I hope you will clarify exactly what you meant..

  4. How About Letting EVERYONE Enjoy Their Evening?
    It is selfish and arrogant for a bunch of obnoxious little brats to “socialize” in a manner that disturbs other people. If you want to run around and make noise, why don’t you do it in a place where your raucous behavior won’t disturb others? When I was a teenager in Evanston, we were quite capable of having fun without disturbing anyone. Of course, that was 25 years ago, and Evanston is now a very different place. Apparently one of the changes is that common courtesy and consideration have gone by the wayside, at least among the “Entitlement Generation.”

  5. Socializing vs crime
    It seems that whenever this subject comes up, there is a debate over whether we are trying to limit social behavior or criminal behavior. While I certainly agree that not all hanging out involves criminal activity, history has shown that it doesn’t exclude criminal activity, either.

    I’m not sure I agree that kids should be dispersed from business districts, provided they are conducting themselves appropriately – that is, not blocking sidewalks or harassing passers-by, which unfortunately has been known to happen downtown. These behaviors are already covered by Evanston ordinances, and should be reported to the police. Most teens do not misbehave; it’s unfortunate that those who do are most often in the spotlight.

    That being said, I still see no reason for anyone to socialize in front of a strangers’ home, and I reiterate my request for Council to adopt an ordinace that considers that option.

    1. Police responsibiltiy or Parents needs to step up?
      Do we really want society where Police is looking after public manners for how your kids behave?

      It is that we are asking for police to control kids behavior because parents can not do a better job of teaching manners for kids?

      I hope we do not need to rely on police to look after kid’s behavior. To me, it is very strange that people rely on police to decipline kids where most of other countries rely on parents and neighbors to look after kids behavior.

      Do we live in the society where police needs to dicipline kid’s behavior? That is little sad to me…

      We need to seek for solution for root of problem. Police ispersing kids is like waving away mosquitoes. They will gather other place or come back.

      We should spending time and energy to solve the root of the problem.

      Parenting, providing after school activities for kids, place for them to release positive energy, Building a great neiborhood where parents can rely on other parents to build good community.

      Why do we all think that police is always the issue without look for your own solution within your power?

  6. I am very concerned that an
    I am very concerned that an officer of this city, Alderman Delores Holmes, believes that local kids are “labeled gang bangers just for a lack of recreational places for them to go.”

    Evanston has a very large number of recreational places to go and things to do. There are at least six large parks in Evanston and Chicago within walking distance of Custer and Brummel, many of them with basketball hoops and tennis courts. Chute Middle school has hoops, softball fields and soccer fields.

    If a youth has a bike the whole city is open for exploration, including beaches, trails, and all the outdoor facilities at ETHS. The beaches in Chicago, just a few blocks away are free. This city has several recreation centers, all easy to get to by train and bus, and scholarships are waiting to be taken at the YWCA and YMCA.

    This city has three public libraries, all of them with huge selections of materials that would be interesting to teens, especially magazines on every subject. DVDs are very cheap to check out and the computers are free to use.

    Those who loiter, sit on other people’s cars and hang out in other people’s front yards because THEY can’t think of anything better to do, despite the wide and varied number of opportunities provided by the city and volunteer organizations in Evanston.

    Those who cry that there is “nothing to do” are not trying very hard.

  7. Many of these groups of kids are not just hanging out
    In reading the crime stats – many of these groups of kids are attacking people in this town. To the
    anonymous poster you need to take a look at the annual police report on crime the police yearly are arresting hundreds of kids for criminal activities here and I do not mean curfew violations!

    Go take a look at the 8th ward quicktopic board – there are the same issues kids doing many more things than just hanging out.

    The question you need to ask is how many of these kids will be come furture criminals here? My sources have advised me Evanston has several hundred harden criminals – the problem is this is alot for a community of 75,000 -given the small area, these people are causing alot of crime here. The city has refuse to deal with this issue. Having a gang ordinance may not solve the problem but it sends a message we are sick of people hanging out on street corners bothering people.

    1. Relying on police will not create a good community.
      We should spending time talking about on why these kids are behaiving in such a manner. I wish that everyone would realize that they can contribute to make positive influence to these kids rather than toss the problem to police.

      Cracking down a whip by police will isolate problem kids more and more away from society.

      Instead of complainging and tossing a responsibility to police, do something to help these kids to get them out of gang or trouble environment.

      Have you consider participating in big brother and sister program to lead them a way?

      Have you consider forming neighborhood meeting to create tighter neighboorhood?

      Have you volunteer to spend time with kids in neighborhood?

      What have you done to these kids to help them instead of complaining and tossing the issue to police as if you have no responsibility to kids in your city you live in.

      Citizen, neighbors, parents needs step up to make difference. Police involvement will not cure the problem.

      1. The police are a part of the community as well
        I have worked with many of the people posting in support of this ordinance who are, indeed, very involved in their community. We have an active neighborhood group that hosts public events (some expressly for youth) and posts its meetings here, to which anyone willing to participate is welcome. In addition, the police department has outreach workers who try to put troubled teens in touch with social service organizations.

        Unfortunately, these things alone are not sufficient to address the disrespect and criminal behavior that often comes with “hanging out.” Without supervision and discipline, teenagers tend to follow the lead of the most charismatic teen in the group – and, at least in our neighborhood, the charismatic teens often choose to misbehave. I wish we could help these kids, particularly the leaders – especially since they could be a real positive force if they chose, but teenagers are free to make their own choices. If their parents are not willing to discipline them, it is up to the community – and the community’s vehicle for doing so safely is the Evanston police department.

        We can (and certainly I will continue) offer positive things to do, but these things can’t be seen as a bribe for proper behavior. All of us, including teens, have a responsibility to live by the laws set out for us, and those laws should reflect what we need to live peacably with each other. These responsibilities are completely separate from whatever difficulties life hands us, and if there are individuals who can’t follow the law, consequences (e.g. police involvement) are vital.

  8. Loitering Ordinance Needed
    I spoke in favor of the “gang loitering” ordinance at the Human Services Committee meeting on Monday night because I believe that the city needs an enforceable tool to stop groups of people from congregating in certain known “trouble spots.”

    As I mentioned at the meeting, I do not want to criminalize innocent kids. However, my neighborhood has problems with large groups of teens loitering on corners or in front of private residences, engaging in behavior that is disruptive, if not criminal. These actions include sitting on cars they do not own, shouting, throwing objects at passing vehicles, harassing pedestrians, smoking marijuana, drinking alcohol, shooting off fireworks, fighting, and selling drugs. These activities tend to happen in certain favored areas; if the police were able to prevent groups of kids from gathering in these “hot spots” it would go a long way toward making our neighborhood safer.

    I wish we could rely on parents to teach their children how to behave respectfully in public. However, some people have not passed on this valuable lesson. While it is unfortunate that we have to resort to police intervention in these cases, groups of kids already involved in anti-social behavior can be intimidating or dangerous for the average person to approach. The community should not have to suffer because some people think criminal behavior is all right. Every person deserves to feel respected and safe in their community, and it is entirely appropriate to ask the City Council to enact measures that will help us reach that goal.

  9. Evanston Liberal NIMBY strikes again
    Unfortunately, there is a great deal of gang and criminal activity wrapped up in South Evanston’s group loitering. Gang and drug leaders embolden other youth to defy residents and police. Guns are frequently present in these gatherings. So are drugs. An ordinance that targets gang leaders and known criminals has more teeth than loitering ordinances.

    What happens is not just “simple” loitering, as if that wasn’t bad enough. It is easy to call for “social” solutions to groups of youths hanging out and terrorizing local residents, if you yourself don’t have to “walk the gauntlet” of taunts, obsenities and even physical threats just to get from your car to your home. Perhaps the aldermen who oppose strict loitering and anti-gang laws should stroll around the affected areas and see how they feel about it then. Do any of those who oppose the anti-gang proposal have drugs being dealt under their bedroom windows? Do they awake at all hours of the night to gunshots or a 40-person rumble on their front lawns? All my life I’ve listened to Evanston closet liberals blather about their concerns for people’s rights, but they’re always the ones who don’t live with it. And what about the rights of the residents whose right it is to enjoy a stroll in their neighborhood or a peaceful night’s sleep? The NIMBY dreamers are quick to shoot down any laws that offend their overly delicate liberal sensibilities, but never in my life in Evanston seen these people come up with meaningful alternatives to the proposals they shoot down. They just hope people forget about it and they go home to their peaceful neighborhoods.

    I would like to see how the melees that occur regularly in South Evanston would be tolerated, say, anywhere in North Evanston. It’s so very easy to be high and mighty and liberale when you aren’t confronting the problem daily.

    Yes, kids hanging out with no parental supervision is a social problem, and that would be the ideal way to solve it, but guess what? Evanston has been trying to address the issues for years, and has provided lots of help and resources. While the talk continues, so does the miscreant behavior. This is nothing new. It’s just that people in the affected areas are finally speaking up.

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