Chicago police DUI checkpoints still concentrated in minority neighborhoods
Chicago police conduct a roadside check for motorists in the 10000 block of South Halsted Street on March 6, 2015.
(Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)
Little has changed: Police still set up DUI checks mostly in minority areas.
Months after revealing the Chicago Police Department set up sobriety checkpoints almost exclusively in African-American and Latino communities, the Tribune has found that the pattern continues.
Between March and August, Chicago police scheduled 14 roadside checks, pulling over drivers randomly to check for drunken driving and other violations. Nine of the checks were in majority black police districts. Four checkpoints occurred in a predominantly Latino districts. There was one in a majority white area. That's despite the fact that the Tribune has in the past shown some predominantly white districts in Chicago had more alcohol-related crashes than many minority districts.
Of Chicago's 22 police districts, nine are majority black, five white, four Latino and four have no racial majority.
No corner of the city had more checkpoints than the Harrison District on the city's West Side, where police have scheduled three of the random stops since March. An earlier Tribune analysis of state traffic data found that the majority black district ranked 10th out of the city's 22 districts for the number of alcohol-related crashes in recent years.
The Englewood District followed closely behind in crashes, yet police scheduled two roadside checks in the predominantly African-American South Side district in recent months. On March 20, police scheduled a checkpoint in the majority black Grand Crossing District even though the area has had the fewest alcohol-related crashes in the city.
Meanwhile, no checkpoints were scheduled in the majority white Jefferson Park District despite ranking third citywide for the number of alcohol-related crashes and fatalities. Police officials have maintained the lack of checkpoints there has nothing to do with the fact that roughly one-fifth of the city's police officers and their families live there.
The May Tribune report analyzed Chicago DUI checkpoints from 2010 through June of last year and compared the data with crash data by police district. The Tribune found no checkpoints had been conducted in the Jefferson Park District since at least February 2010.
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis said the pattern raises questions about what's driving the deployments, half of which have occurred in his district since March. "Why are people being stopped?" Davis said. "Why the concentration?"
Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said "the core focus of the CPD is to safeguard the people of Chicago."
"The purpose of these safety checks is to make the streets safer, and they are a success," said Guglielmi, who noted that police conduct various types of DUI enforcement beyond the roadblocks.
@kcruger9 When people become addle brained fool from doing to many drugs are you going to take care of them.And I'm not talking about pot.Do you really want some nut job high on meth of crack living on your block where your family lives.
AT 11:57 AM SEPTEMBER 10, 2015
Police use crash and citation data and complaints to decide where to set up roadside checks or conduct roving DUI patrols, Guglielmi said. Authorities used roving DUI patrols in white districts in recent months, which, experts say, are a less visible deterrent but can be more effective in snaring drunken drivers. Such patrols, however, require probable cause before pulling over a vehicle, whereas checkpoints enable police to make contact with drivers who ordinarily would not have been stopped.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office declined requests for comment.
Ald. Roderick Sawyer, 6th, chairman of the City Council's Black Caucus, said the pattern suggests "a racial undertone" that he'd like to see police officials explain during a public hearing.
"It's not like we drive any worse or it's proven that we have driving habits that would necessitate more enforcement," Sawyer said.
The Illinois Department of Transportation reports that $470,000 was spent largely on overtime to cover both types of nighttime enforcement in 2014. Chicago police logged more violations than any other municipality in Illinois that year. Of the nearly 7,300 citations issued, 244 involved a drunken driving arrest. That amounted to 30 citations — primarily for minor moving and nonmoving violations — for every drunken driver arrested.
The checkpoints and roving patrols, including overtime, are paid for with federal grant money. Federal guidelines require departments to use objective criteria, such as a high incidence of alcohol-related crashes, to determine where to set up the checks and patrols.
In May, the Tribune revealed that during the last five years, 84 percent of the 152 sobriety checkpoints scheduled in Chicago occurred in areas populated mostly by minorities while roadways in areas with more DUI-related crashes that are predominantly white are checked less often or not at all.
The data showed no clear indication that a high number of checkpoints is correlated with few alcohol-related crashes. Some police districts with few checkpoints also had few crashes. Some districts with several checkpoints also had a high number of crashes.
Adam Schwartz, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which closely monitors traffic stops, said the roadside checks are part of a larger problem with traffic stops, which disproportionately affect black and Latino drivers.
"Are decisions about where to put DUI checkpoints part of a larger context of policing in a big city?" Schwartz said. "The city really needs to explain itself."
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