Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposed Victims Justice Ordinance which would allow the City of Chicago to file civil suits against gangs and their members was delayed at today’s City Council meeting. Lightfoot first proposed the ordinance back in September of 2021 as a method of combatting gun violence. 

“Criminal gang activity imposes substantial costs on the city, residents and the neighborhoods where they operate,” Lightfoot said in a statement on Sept. 14 when she proposed the ordinance. “If we are successful, we will seize their assets and disrupt the financial lifelines that support this criminal activity and fuels their dominance in our city.”

The Victims Justice ordinance follows the precedent of Civil Asset forfeiture laws which allow law enforcement to seize property if there is suspicion that it has been used in a crime. The ordinance has triggered red flags for organizations such as the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) because asset forfeiture laws don’t require police to gain a conviction, file charges, or even establish guilt before seizing property. 

“Forfeiture was originally presented as a way to cripple large-scale criminal enterprises by diverting their resources,” the ACLU writes. “But today, aided by deeply flawed federal and state laws, many police departments use forfeiture to benefit their bottom lines, making seizures motivated by profit rather than crime-fighting.”

The ordinance would authorize courts to hold a defendant liable for compensatory and punitive damages or enter a fine up to $10,000 for each offense. TRiiBE columnist Bella BAHHS wrote in her Revolutionary Column that the new ordinance wouldn’t provide any additional protections for gun violence because it fails to address the root causes of the violence and operates under an outdated view of street gangs.

“Chicago gangs haven’t been organized enterprises with profit motives and hierarchical authority for decades,” BAHHS writes. “We’re dying here because of the red lines drawn around our neighborhoods, marking them designated war zones and dumping grounds for violence, pollution, malnutrition, mass incarceration, under-education, unemployment, illegal drugs, and gun shipments.”

In a press conference following the February 23 city council meeting, Lightfoot was unwavering in her belief in the ordinance. She is open to making the necessary tweaks to get it passed, she said.

“We talked to the police department about whether this was a viable strategy because the gangs now aren’t like the gangs before,” Lightfoot said. “But there are still some gangs in the city who are very powerful, who are very hierarchical, and who have defined leadership that is profiting mightily.”

The ordinance is expected to come to a vote at the next month’s city council meeting.

is a staff writer with The TRiiBE. Email him with news tips.
is the editor-in-chief of The TRiiBE and a 2023-2024 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.