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Mayor Lightfoot announces new plan to fight Chicago crime: Sue street gangs

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Chicago, which famously has a long history of violent crime, is currently suffering under a spate of shootings and killings. And Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been unable to get the city's violent crime under control.

Some might blame her policies that hamper police efforts, like her move to require cops to get permission to chase suspects on foot.

Others might focus on her penchant to blame guns and not criminals for shootings, as she did in the killing of Officer Ella French.

But now the mayor is pushing a new idea to stop violent crime in the Windy City: suing street gangs.

What's her plan?

Lightfoot announced her new plan Tuesday, which will let the city file lawsuits against street gangs and snag their money and assets, WBBM-TV reported.

"We will hold you accountable," Lightfoot declared while touting the measure that would allow judges to "order the forfeiture or money or property that is directly or indirectly related to street gang activity," the outlet said.

"To be very blunt and clear, we are going after their blood money — the money they have profited off killing," Lightfoot said.

This, of course, assumes the city can identify and successfully prosecute members of the often-loosely affiliated gangs, many of whom are minors or go by street names and not their given names.

So, will the plan actually work? WBBM looked into it — and it's not promising.

Though these kinds of lawsuits have been used with some success at the federal level, experts told WBBM that such suits in Chicago would likely be useless.

Former federal prosecutor Eric Sussman told the station, "In federal court, you're dealing with organized street gangs — in many cases involving individuals that are in their 30s, sometimes even in their 40s — that are moving large amounts of drugs."

But things on Chicago's streets are different, according to Sussman. Chi-town gangs, of which there are about 100, are not nearly as tightly affiliated and largely made of up minors.

"In state court, most of these 15- and 16-year-olds they can't even identify aren't even subject to adult criminal prosecution," Sussman said.

Attorney John Mauck — who represented four people sued in Kane County, Illinois, for gang activities but had the case dropped because authorities could not prove they were actually members of the gang — said these types of lawsuit won't help Chicago.

"Most of the lawsuits were ended by default judgments," he told WBBM, referring to a number of suits in Kane County. "Either they didn't serve the individuals, or the individuals didn't bother to come to court."

However, the chief of police in Elgin, Illinois, which is in Kane County, told WBBM that the city had three successful gang lawsuits from 2010 to 2016.

"The department noted a significant reduction in street gang activity during this time," Chief Ana Lalley claimed to the outlet.

But Sussman and Mauck see it as a political move by Lightfoot and not anything substantive.

"They'll sue a bunch of gang members and get some judgments and say, 'Look what we've done,' but it won't accomplish anything," Mauck said. "It's for show."

Sussman said, "I think this is clearly a political move and a response to the fact that the city has been unable to articulate a policy to prevent the shootings and the killings that are going on in the city."

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