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DUI Crackdowns Target Black and Hispanic Neighborhoods, Data Shows

By Josh McGhee | May 8, 2015 9:30am | Updated on May 11, 2015 7:59am
 FOIA results show that Chicago Police DUI crackdowns mostly occur in black and Hispanic neighborhoods, but areas with the most DUI arrests only had 12 percent of the police crackdowns last year.
FOIA results show that Chicago Police DUI crackdowns mostly occur in black and Hispanic neighborhoods, but areas with the most DUI arrests only had 12 percent of the police crackdowns last year.
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Joe Raedle/ Getty Images

CHICAGO — DUI crackdowns have been billed as an opportunity for police to make the streets safer by keeping them free of drunken drivers, but an analysis of the 2014 results shows they yield very few DUI arrests but generate thousands of dollars in fines for minor infractions.

Further analysis of the documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request shows the department ignored districts with the most DUI arrests and instead held multiple patrols in districts serving black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

In 2014, the Chicago Police Department set up 56 crackdowns, yielding about two DUI arrests each time and about 100 tickets on average for unsafe vehicle violations, seat belt violations, lack of insurance, lack of a driver's license, speeding and an "others" category.

According to the Police Department, "the purpose of this program is to saturate a predesignated area with roving police officers that continually monitor vehicular traffic for signs of impaired driving. Patrols also place emphasis on speed, alcohol-related and safety belt violations."

Police cars with speed detectors also are used to catch speeders. During the crackdowns, a blood-alcohol testing unit also can be deployed to speed up the process of charging someone with a DUI, police said.

Source: Chicago Police Department [DNAinfo/Tanveer Ali]

During the 56 patrols on neighborhood streets, 130 DUI arrests were made, and more than 6,000 tickets were issued, including more than 1,400 tickets for unsafe vehicles, more than 700 tickets for seat belt violations, more than 700 tickets for not having insurance, more than 400 tickets for license violations and another 1,900 tickets for various other violations, according to the data.

According to the Police Department's News Affairs Office, the locations targeted by the strike forces are chosen collaboratively by the department's traffic division and district commanders.

Data shows those patrols don't correlate with the number of DUI arrests in the area.

Across the city last year, Chicago Police made more than 3,300 DUI arrests, with nearly 1,500 of those coming from just five districts. Yet not one of those districts hosted more than two DUI crackdowns. In fact, those five districts had only seven of the 56 crackdowns. Two districts had more than seven crackdowns.

Top 5 districts for DUI arrests:

1. The Grand Central (25th) District: 344

• Grand Central covers Montclare, Belmont Cragin and Hermosa along with portions of Logan Square, Avondale, Austin and Humboldt Park.

2. The Town Hall (19th) and Ogden (10th) District: 308

• Town Hall covers Lakeview and North Center along with portions of Lincoln Square, Uptown and Lincoln Park.

• Ogden covers North Lawndale and South Lawndale along with portions of the West Side.

4. The Jefferson Park (16th) District: 281

• Jefferson Park District covers portions of O'Hare, Dunning, Portage Park, Jefferson Park, Forest Glen, Norwood Park and Edison Park.

5. The Chicago Lawn District: 258

• Chicago Lawn covers portions of Garfield Ridge, Archer Heights, Brighton Park, West Elsdon, Gage Park, Clearing, West Lawn, Chicago Lawn and Ashburn.

Of the 22 police districts, seven had more than two strike forces, with the overwhelming majority of multiple patrols occurring in districts serving black and Hispanic communities.

More than 50 percent of the patrols targeted just five districts, the data shows.

Districts that held the most DUI crackdowns:

1. The South Chicago (4th) District: 8

• South Chicago covers South Deering, Hegewisch, East Side, Calumet Heights, Avalon Park and South Chicago along with portions of South Shore. During the district's eight patrols more than 800 tickets were issued. The population of the district is majority black and Hispanic, with the East Side neighborhood being 80 percent Hispanic and South Chicago being about 73 percent black, according to data obtained from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

2. The Austin (15th) District: 7

• This district covers a large portion of Austin. About 85 percent of Austin's 97,000 residents are black, according to demographics of the neighborhood. About 600 tickets were issued during the seven patrols. (Note: One patrol was done together by the Austin and Harrison districts)

3. The Harrison (11th) District: 6

• Harrison covers West Garfield Park and East Garfield Park and portions of Humboldt Park and North Lawndale. The combined population of both East and West Garfield Park is around 48,000 people with over 90 percent of the residents being black, according to demographics of the neighborhood. Over 500 tickets were issued during those six patrols, data shows.

4. The Calumet (5th) and Deering (9th) District: 5

• Calumet covers Roseland, Pullman, West Pullman and Riverdale. Eighty percent of Pullman residents are black and over 90 percent of residents in the three other neighborhoods are black. About 540 tickets were issued during the five patrols, data shows.

• The Deering District covers Armour Square, Bridgeport, McKinley Park, New City and portions of Brighton Park and Gage Park. The two biggest neighborhoods are New City with about 41,000 residents and Bridgeport with 32,000. New City is 53 percent Hispanic. Thirty-five percent of Bridgeport residents are Asian, while another 28 percent are Hispanic, according to demographics of the neighborhood.

About 540 tickets were issued during the five crackdowns, data shows.

The Chicago Police Department declined to comment on specific questions for this article.

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