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
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.
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.