The Chicago
Gang Loitering Ordinance Linx


Dorothy Roberts of Northwestern
Law School discusses the problems with the ordinance in detail

Richard Kimble of John
Marshall Law School
discusses the loitering ordinance

Mayor Daley's 2002 press release supporting the gang loitering ordinance

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley

Daley on the constitutionality of the Loitering Ordinance

Daley on Chicago's Alternate Policing Strategy (CAPS)

Oral Arguments:
Chicago vs Morales

Commentary from APA

When Rights are Wrong-Boston Review

More Wrong than Right-
Boston Review

At War With Our Future


Chicago's Gang Loitering
Ordinance -

an overview

by Ana Petrovic

In the early 1990s, the City of Chicago held several public hearings concerning the influence of gangs in Chicago neighborhoods. Community residents testified that gangs loitered in order to claim territory, recruit new members, as well as intimidate other residents and rival gangs.

Consequently, on June 17, 1992, the City of Chicago passed the Chicago’s Gang Congregation Ordinance. This “gang loitering” ordinance basically enabled a police officer to order a group of two or

more people to disperse from a public place if the police officer believed that one of these people was a criminal street gang member. Any person who disobeyed such orders could be jailed for up to six months and fined up to $500. On August 8, 1992, the Chicago Police Department promulgated General Order No. 92-4: a set of guidelines for enforcing the ordinance. During the three years the ordinance was enforced, 89,000 dispersal orders were issued and 42,000 individuals were arrested.

Jesus Morales was one of those 42,000 individuals arrested under this law. Morales, along with many others arrested for violating the ordinance, challenged the law with the aid of the Illinois Chapter of American Civil Liberties Union and the Cook County Public Defender on the grounds that the law violated the First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. The case entitled City of Chicago v. Morales faced the Illinois appellate court, the Illinois Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the ordinance was unconstitutional because it violated the vagueness doctrine of the Fourteenth Amendment and substantive due process. In other words, the ordinance failed to adequately notify citizens of what conduct is prohibited, and it allowed for arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement by the police. More specifically, the Court determined the ordinance’s definition of loitering of: “to remain in any one place with no apparent purpose” as too vague.

On February 16, 2000, the City of Chicago passed a revised version of the 1992 gang loitering ordinance. The revisions aimed to eliminate the unconstitutional elements found in the original ordinance. Therefore, the new gang loitering ordinance changed its definition of loitering to: “remaining in any one place under circumstances that would warrant a reasonable person to believe that the purpose or effect of that behavior is to enable a criminal street gang to establish control over identifiable areas, to intimidate others from entering these areas, or to conceal illegal activities.”

The new ordinance also changed police guidelines for enforcement of the ordinance. These regulations are highlighted in detail in the Chicago Police Department’s General Order No. 00-02. These new set of guidelines provide police with the new definition of loitering, new enforcement procedure, and the selection of designated areas for enforcement. Furthermore, the new ordinance only calls for enforcement of the ordinance in “hot spots” of the city, which are ultimately determined by the Superintendent of the Police. These designated areas are only disclosed to Police Department members, the City of Chicago Department of Law, and the Municipal Prosecutions Division. These revisions have raised a major controversy over whether or not they alleviate or escalate arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.