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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

Chicago Police Only Arrested People For Social Distancing Violations On The South And West Sides, Data Shows

Of the adults arrested, nearly every person was Black. Most of the social distancing citations were issued in majority-Black and Latino neighborhoods, too.

File Photo: Chicago Police officers walk along the lakefront in August 2017. | Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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SOUTH SHORE — Despite the mayor’s claim that police have enforced social distancing equally across Chicago, data shows almost all arrests and citations for congregating have been issued on the city’s South and West sides.

All 13 arrests and 11 of 13 citations have been issued in majority-Black and Latino neighborhoods on the South and West sides, according to public records obtained by Block Club Chicago.

Between March 20 and May 21, 13 people were arrested for violating the stay at home orders. Ten were Black, one was white and two were juveniles whose race and arrest reports were withheld.

Thirteen others received citations. Of those, 11 were located in majority-minority neighborhoods on the South and West Sides. Detailed reports and demographic information were not provided for the citations.

Critics have accused Chicago Police of disproportionately enforcing social distancing guidelines on the South and West sides. In a tweet over the weekend, Chance the Rapper said he saw hundreds of people at Millennium Park who were failing to social distance but didn’t face arrests or fines.

“Please stop sending large groups of militarized police into our neighborhoods exclusively,” Chance tweeted.

In response, Mayor Lori Lightfoot denied there’s been more enforcement in Black communities.

“The reality is the Chicago Police Department is active and engaged all over the city and doing it with an eye toward equity, and I would have it no other way as mayor of this city,” Lightfoot said. “I can tell you, based upon the statistics we’ve been keeping for weeks, those dispersal orders are happening all over the city — and yes, in white areas, in Latinx areas, in moneyed areas of the city.”

Block Club has requested the number of dispersals of groups per police district. Chicago Police did not respond to a request for comment.

In the early days of the stay at home order, dispersals were heavily concentrated on the West Side, police said.

On March 29, police reported 89 dispersals of groups in the Harrison District, former police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. The next highest number of dispersals on that day was four dispersals in the Austin (15th) Police District. Both police districts are on the city’s West Side.

In an effort to reduce loitering on the West Side in April, Chicago Police stationed officers at four West Side crime hotspots, asking people to show ID. Only people who lived on the blocks there were allowed to enter, which the American Civil Liberties Union said was a violation of constitutional rights.

Lightfoot previously said she personally toured the city, urging people to return home if they weren’t taking proper precautions.

One such effort, in which she confronted a group of teenagers on the West Side, became a viral video and prompted broader questions about how Lightfoot was using police to enforce the stay at home order on the South and West sides.

Gov. JB Pritzker’s stay at home order, implemented in March, prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people, among other restrictions. Mayor Lori Lightfoot closed the lakefront, public playgrounds, The 606 trail and other public spaces in an attempt to encourage social distancing.

Arrest breakdown

Two Black women, ages 20 and 19, were arrested at 6607 S. Ingleside Ave. in Woodlawn around 1 a.m. on April 2, according to public records. Police were responding to a nearby Shotspotter sensor and and found a “large gathering of more than 10 people” at the site.

The women were given “three lawful warnings” to disperse the gathering and they refused to comply, according to their arrest reports. They were ticketed and released from custody around 5 a.m. the same day.

Seven people were arrested on the street and sidewalk near 4023 W. Wilcox St. in West Garfield Park around noon on April 8. They were told to disperse earlier that morning, police reports said.

Four arrested in that incident were Black men ages 26 to 32, one was a 25-year-old white man and two were juveniles.

All five adults were released around 8 p.m. that evening.

Also on April 8, four Black men aged 19 to 32 were arrested on the sidewalk near 3640 W. Augusta Blvd. in Humboldt Park.

Around 5:45 p.m., a 32-year-old man who was arrested required medical attention at Saint Anthony Hospital. He was returned to lock-up about an hour later.

The four men were released around 8 p.m. April 8.

No one was arrested for social distancing between April 8 and May 21, according to the police department.

The 13 citations were given to:

  • A 19-year-old on the 6200 block of North Lowell Avenue in Forest Glen March 25. The neighborhood is 72 percent white.
  • A 54-year-old on the 4000 block of West Jackson Boulevard in West Garfield Park April 2. The neighborhood is 96 percent Black.
  • A 33-year-old on the 4400 block of West Gladys Avenue in West Garfield Park April 2.
  • A 25-year-old on the 3600 block of West Division Street in Humboldt Park April 4. The neighborhood is 52 percent Hispanic and 41 percent Black.
  • A 61-year old on the 3800 block of West Roosevelt Road in North Lawndale April 7. The neighborhood is 89 percent Black.
  • A 21-year-old on the 10400 block of South Stony Island Avenue in South Deering April 10. The neighborhood is 67 percent Black and 30 percent Hispanic.
  • A 38-year-old on the 3500 block of West Leland Avenue in Albany Park April 19. The neighborhood is 48 percent Hispanic and 29 percent white.
  • A 37-year-old on the 1900 block of East 79th Street in South Shore April 20. The neighborhood is 93 percent Black.
  • A 45-year-old on the 2000 block of North Narragansett Avenue in Belmont Cragin April 27. The neighborhood is 80 percent Hispanic.
  • A 26-year-old on the 2000 block of North Narragansett Avenue in Belmont Cragin April 30.

From April 9 to April 27, three citations were apparently given to the same 49-year-old on the 4800 block of West Adams Street in Austin, a neighborhood that is 83 percent Black.

The ages for those cited are estimated, as only a birth year was provided by the police department.

Drug Sales Blamed — But No Drug Charges Filed

Twelve of the 26 citations and arrests occurred in Ald. Jason Ervin’s (28th) West Side ward. The targeted enforcement is “primarily fueled by our desire to eliminate criminal loitering around the sale of narcotics,” he said.

“We’ve got several issues outside of just the stay at home order,” Ervin said. “Officers have been dispersing locations that have frequent narcotics sales. If you look at other calls for service in those same areas, you’ll see a correlation.”

No one arrested had drugs on them, nor were warrants out for any of the detainees. Nevertheless, “criminal loitering in these areas is something residents did not want to see,” Ervin said.

“You’d have to spend some time [in the ward] to understand what some of these residents are facing on a daily basis,” he said.

Social distancing violations are happening all over the city, but additional enforcement is “especially warranted” on the South and West sides, said Walter Jones, director of the West Garfield Park Community Stakeholders. The organization mainly focuses on preventing violence and drug use among youth.

For the most part, when people are caught loitering in large groups, they’re “out there doing negative activities,” Jones said.

Beyond enforcement, Jones said he hopes the city will allocate more resources for education and other outreach efforts around stopping the virus’ spread in his neighborhood.

“I’m not minimizing … the actions on the North Side,” Jones said. “I’m just saying West Garfield Park and Englewood have been plagued with senseless violence, and now they are being plagued at an astronomical amount with the spread of coronavirus.”

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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