Ordinance punishes Chicagoans who report crimes, places survivors of domestic & sexual violence and individuals with disabilities at heightened risk of harm

The City of Chicago is being urged by more than 20 organizations to repeal its nuisance property ordinance, which harms survivors of domestic violence and persons with disabilities. The groups are speaking out in advance of the City Council’s License and Consumer Protection Committee meeting on Wednesday. The groups say that the measure to be considered is only a partial step, and that only full repeal of the original City ordinance can protect those at risk.
 
Currently, Chicago’s chronic illegal activity premises ordinance (Section 8-4-087) can lead to threats of eviction, fines, or other penalties for making 911 calls. With minor exceptions, Chicago’s ordinance imposes penalties when three or more calls for police services that result in a case report are made regarding a property within 90 days, pressuring landlords to evict or threaten tenants for making calls to police. 
 
“These kinds of laws are not at all effective and actually undermine public safety. By linking its enforcement to the number of calls for police services, it deters crime victims and their neighbors from contacting the police when they need help and encourages the displacement of vulnerable individuals from their homes,” said Jenna Prochaska, Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Illinois.
 
This can also lead to a range of problems for crime victims and other tenants who need assistance from police or emergency services, specifically domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, individuals with disabilities and mental illnesses and more. The proposed ordinance (O2018-89) does little to alleviate the present harms. It does nothing more than create a set of narrow carve-outs that are not an effective solution to the overall problem. 
 
“No one should be afraid to call the police when they need help. In order to truly protect crime victims and keep our communities safe, we urge the City not to take a half step in enacting these carve-outs. The risk of harm to our communities is too great to leave this ordinance in place and we urge the City to repeal it entirely,” said Kate Walz, Senior Director of Litigation and Housing Justice at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.
 
Advocates are also concerned that the nuisance ordinance is excessively overbroad, as virtually any police call regarding illegal activity can trigger enforcement. Such broad nuisance property ordinances lead to a range of serious due process and civil rights concerns for tenants.   
 
Organizations opposed to the ordinance include: the ACLU of Illinois, the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, Access Living, Thresholds, Equip for Equality, Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Mujeres Latinas en Accion, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, Domestic Violence Legal Clinic, National Alliance on Mental Illness Chicago, Center for Disability & Elder Law, Cabrini Green Legal Aid, Chicago Battered Women’s Network, Housing Action Illinois, Illinois Legal Aid Online, Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services, Community Activism Law Alliance, Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, Life Span, Between Friends, and Uptown People’s Law Center.
 
Nationally, crime-free housing ordinances like Chicago’s have been struck down as unconstitutional or unlawful. Cities with these ordinances risk liability for First Amendment violations, Fair Housing Act violations and Due Process complaints – which can lead to increased taxpayer resources being spent on responding to and settling lawsuits. 
 
To read the letter sent by advocates, please click here.
 

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