A series of City Council crackdowns have failed to stop drag racers and drifters from driving in circles and figure-eights on Lower Wacker Drive amid a crowd of spectators and posting video of their stunt driving on social media.
Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) says it’s time to try something different. He wants to hold parents and legal guardians responsible for the mayhem and require them to undergo “licensed family counseling.”
“We have children who are out of control causing 90% of the problems, particularly as it relates to the street takeovers, drag racing and all of the other illegal activities,” Lopez told the Sun-Times.
The ordinance that Lopez introduced at Monday’s City Council meeting would make it a crime for any parent or legal guardian to “willfully and/or knowingly allow a minor in their charge to engage in a host of offenses wreaking havoc on the quality of life in Chicago neighborhoods. Those offenses range from panhandling, underage and public drinking and cannabis use, violating curfew and “climbing on” cars to street takeovers and drag racing.”
Fines would range from $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the offense. All of the crimes would require offenders to perform community service and undergo “licensed family counseling.”
Parents or legal guardians “shall be held as responsible and accountable for the activity of said minor as if they committed the acts themselves,” the ordinance states. Though Lopez’s ordinance is aimed at offenses committed by minors, the Sun-Times has reported in the past that young adults also have taken part in street takeovers, and at times have been charged in connection with their participation.
Lopez said he made the proposal after watching a weekend video circulating on social media that showed a white Tesla trapped by a street takeover on Lower Wacker Drive.
In the video, traffic was brought to a halt by racers driving in circles. A rowdy crowd began jumping on the Tesla, pounding on its windows.
The driver frantically tried to escape, first by putting the Tesla in reverse, then by squeezing through an opening between the oncoming and outgoing lanes. The driver escaped but there was damage to both sides of the car.
Chicago Police Department spokesman Tom Ahern said three cars were impounded and five people were arrested for “mob action and fleeing and eluding” after a “Car Caravan Team” deployed to the scene used “tire deflation devices.”
“Hundreds of kids took over an intersection and began jumping on passersby trying to escape the madness,” Lopez said. “These teens have jumped on buses. They’ve jumped on cars — not just downtown, but in the neighborhoods. And we have no real recourse.”
“The goal isn’t just to fine parents,” Lopez said. “It’s to change behavior and to help parents so that they raise better children.”
The ordinance would also add paintball guns to the list of firearms that cannot be loaned or supplied to minors. Begging or soliciting by a minor would be prohibited. So would using social media platforms to “abet or encourage” minors to behave illegally.
Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) said he found the video circulating on social media “very disturbing.”
“It just shows how difficult it is to stop these organized events when people are communicating with each other. They say, ‘Let’s go take over this certain intersection,’ and they’re able to do it before we even have a clue it’s happening,” Hopkins said.