Every weekend Chicago has two or three St. Valentine’s Day Massacre’s worth of murder. Mayor Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, pressed to do something about it, announced that one key anti-gang initiative would be to crack down on businesses which seem to help foster and encourage gang activity. The idea is that if the city acts more quickly against, say, quickie marts that sell crack pipes or empty buildings serving as gang hangouts, that will reduce crime. In the process, the city released a list of 37 businesses it planned to take stepped-up action against. And what were the crimes that these businesses— including one of the city’s most acclaimed taquerias— were engaged in that allowed the drug trade or whatever to flourish? They were often garden variety offenses that seem to have nothing whatsoever to do with gang activity— suggesting that, as so often, anti-violence measures, like the wars on drugs or “terror,” are merely cover for a more general power grab on the part of government.
Undoubtedly, many of the businesses on the list are attached to gang activity. Many of them were cited for selling unstamped (ie, no tax paid to the state of Illinois) liquor or cigarettes. You may think that that’s just government being upset about not getting its cut; but smuggled cigarettes or liquor imply some sort of criminal organization doing the smuggling.
But then you get to the food businesses on the list, including some franchisees of well-known fast food brands, but also that celebrated taqueria:
• Dunkin’ Donuts, 800 N. Kedzie Ave., accused of failing to control vermin and insects.
• McDonald’s, 2609 S. Kedzie Ave., accused of failing to control vermin and insects. Callers reported rats everywhere, including the children’s playground area.
• Subway, 9518 S. Halsted St., accused of sanitation violations and failing to control vermin and insects. Complainants reported “bugs coming out of sandwiches that we were eating” and a restroom that had been out of order for a whole year.
• Armando R. Sanchez, owner of Carniceria y Taqueria Tierra Caliente at 1402 N. Ashland Ave., accused of having a defective staircase and failing to maintain its grease container. Callers complained of standing water and meat being illegally cured in the basement, and “very unsanitary conditions.”
Okay, that’s all really gross and we’re all for the city cleaning it up. But the city has a department for exactly that sort of thing already; it’s called the Health Department and if it’s ignored a broken toilet for a whole year then the answer isn’t that the city needs new powers so much as it is that the city needs to actually do its job. We very much doubt, however, that the drug trade or gang violence is affected one bit by the illegal curing of meat, and selling the idea that you’re fighting gang violence by targeting routine health inspection problems is no more on the level than selling unstamped cigarettes to minors. [CBS Chicago]